Skip to main content


Log in

A Family Strengths Approach to Early Language and Literacy Development

  • Published:
Early Childhood Education Journal Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Language and literacy skills are an essential element of young children’s development and allow them to interact meaningfully with other people and to develop knowledge in all subject areas. Despite the importance of language and literacy development, however, more than one-third of children in the United States enter school with significant differences in language, early literacy skills, and motivation to learn that place them at considerable risk for developing long-term reading difficulties. The quantity and quality of language interactions children have with their parents and exposure to print in their home environment prior to entering school have an important impact on these individual differences. This paper provides teachers with guidelines and tools for helping families identify and create language and literacy opportunities in their home environment that reflect their unique strengths and routines.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Al Otaiba, S. F., & Fuchs, D. (2006). Who are the young children for whom best practices in reading are ineffective? An experimental and longitudinal study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 414–431. doi:10.1177/00222194060390050401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bracken, S. S., & Fischel, J. E. (2008). Family reading behavior and early literacy skills in preschool children from low-income backgrounds. Early Education Development, 19, 45–67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brandt, D. (2001). Literacy in American lives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  • Britto, P. R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Griffin, T. M. (2006). Maternal reading and teaching patterns: Associations with school readiness in low-income African American families. Reading Research Quarterly, 41, 68–89. doi:10.1598/RRQ.41.1.3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeBaryshe, B. D., Binder, J. C., & Buell, M. J. (2000). Mothers’ implicit theories of early literacy instruction: Implications for children’s reading and writing. Early Child Development and Care, 160, 119–131. doi:10.1080/0030443001600111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hannon, P. (1995). Literacy, home and school: Research and practice in teaching literacy with parents. Washington, DC: The Falmer Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: Brookes.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klingner, J. K., & Edwards, P. A. (2006). Cultural considerations with response to intervention models. Reading Research Quarterly, 41, 108–117. doi:10.1598/RRQ.41.1.6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neuman, S. B. (2006). The knowledge gap: Implications for early education. In D. K. Dickinson & S. B. Neuman (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research (Vol. 2, pp. 29–40). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Otto, B. (2006). Language development in early childhood (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Purcell-Gates, V. (2000). Family literacy. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. III, pp. 853–870). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 360–406. doi:10.1598/RRQ.21.4.1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weigel, D. J., Martin, S. S., & Bennett, K. K. (2006a). Contributions of the home literacy environment to preschool-aged children’s emerging literacy and language skills. Early Child Development and Care, 176, 357–378. doi:10.1080/03004430500063747.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weigel, D. J., Martin, S. S., & Bennett, K. K. (2006b). Mothers’ literacy beliefs: Connections with the home literacy environment and pre-school children’s literacy development. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 6, 191–211. doi:10.1177/1468798406066444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weinberger, J. (1998). Young children’s literacy experiences within the fabric of daily life. In R. Campbell (Ed.), Facilitating preschool literacy (pp. 39–50). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Werner, E. E., & Smith, R. S. (1992). Overcoming the odds: High risk children from birth to adulthood. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wigfield, A., & Asher, S. R. (1984). Social and motivational influences on reading. In P. D. Pearson, R. Barr, M. L. Kamil, & P. Mosenthal (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 1, pp. 423–452). White Plains, NY: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Deborah Russell Carter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Carter, D.R., Chard, D.J. & Pool, J.L. A Family Strengths Approach to Early Language and Literacy Development. Early Childhood Educ J 36, 519–526 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: