Learning to read and write efficiently is of the utmost importance in elementary school. However, writing is frequently difficult and can be demotivating for beginning writers. Fortunately these barriers can be partially alleviated with parental help. Many studies showed that parental involvement influences children’s competence and motivation in reading, but little is known about the benefits of parental involvement in writing. We report on an intervention program to promote parental involvement in writing and a test of its efficacy. Forty-eight second graders were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n = 22) or to a waiting list (n = 26). Parents in the intervention group attended the program Cultivating Writing in which they discussed how to better support their children towards writing. Parents also trained an interaction sequence for effectively praising and making suggestions concerning their children’s texts. Over 10 weeks, teachers asked students to write four stories as home assignment. While children in the waiting list composed texts alone, children in the intervention group composed texts with their parents. When compared to children in the waiting list, those in the intervention group improved in some transcription measures and wrote longer and better texts. These findings indicate that parental involvement in writing is important and seems effective in fostering children’s writing skills.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alves, R. A. (2013). A mente enquanto escreve: A automatização da execução motora na composição escrita [The mind while writing: The automatization of motor execution in writing]. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
Alves, R. A., & Jesus, I. (2011). Bursts of written language production increase across the initial years of schooling. Paper presented at the 14th biennial conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction, Exeter, England.
Alves, R. A., & Limpo, T. (2015). Progress in written language bursts, pauses, transcription, and written composition across schooling. Scientific Studies of Reading, 19(5), 374–391. doi:10.1080/10888438.2015.1059838.
Alves, R. A., Limpo, T., Fidalgo, R., Carvalhais, L., Pereira, L. A., & Castro, S. L. (2016). The impact of promoting transcription on early text production: Effects on bursts and pauses, levels of written language, and writing performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108, 665–679. doi:10.1037/edu0000089.
Axford, N., Lehtonen, M., Tobin, K., Kaoukji, D., & Berry, V. (2012). Engaging parents in parenting programs: Lessons from research and practice. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(10), 2061–2071. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.06.011.
Baker, L., & Scher, D. (2002). Beginning readers’ motivation for reading in relation to parental beliefs and home reading experiences. Reading Psychology, 23(4), 239–269. doi:10.1080/713775283.
Baker, L., Scher, D., & Mackler, K. (1997). Home and family influences on motivations for literacy. Educational Psychologist, 32, 69–82. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3202_2.
Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written composition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Berman, R. A., & Slobin, D. I. (Eds.). (1994). Relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Berninger, V. W., Mizokawa, D. T., & Bragg, R. (1991). Theory-based diagnosis and remediation of writing disabilities. Journal of School Psychology, 29, 57–79. doi:10.1016/0022-4405(91)90016-K.
Berninger, V. W., & Swanson, H. L. (1994). Modifying Hayes and Flower’s model of skilled writing to explain beginning and developing writing. In E. Butterfield (Ed.), Children’s writing: Toward a process theory of development of skilled writing (pp. 57–81). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246–263. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00995.x.
Boscolo, P. (2009). Engaging and motivating children to write. In R. Beard, D. Myhill, M. Nystrand, & J. Riley (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of writing development (pp. 300–313). London: SAGE.
Boscolo, P., & Gelati, C. (2013). Best practices in promoting motivation in writing. In S. Graham, C. A. MacArthut, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best practices in writing instruction (2nd ed., pp. 284–308). New York: Guilford.
Boscolo, P., & Hidi, S. (2007). The multiple meanings of motivation to write. In S. Hidi & P. Boscolo (Eds.), Writing and motivation (pp. 1–14). Amsterdam: Elsevier. doi:10.1163/9781849508216_002.
Bruning, R. H., Dempsey, M., Kauffman, D. F., McKim, C., & Zumbrunn, S. (2013). Examining dimensions of self-efficacy for writing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(1), 25–38. doi:10.1037/a0029692.
Bruning, R. H., & Horn, C. (2000). Developing motivation to write. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 25–37. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3501_4.
Buescu, H. C., Morais, J., Rocha, M. R., & Magalhães, V. F. (2015). Programa e metas curriculares de Português no ensino básico [Program and curricular goals of Portuguese in elementary school]. Retrieved from http://www.dge.mec.pt/sites/default/files/Basico/Metas/Portugues/pmcpeb_julho_2015.pdf
Carroll, J. B. (1964). Language and thought. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Carvalhais, L., & Castro, S. L. (in prep.). Lexicality, complexity, and lenght effects on the development of Portuguese spelling.
Christensen, C. A. (2005). The role of orthographic-motor integration in the production of creative and well-structured written text for students in secondary school. Educational Psychology, 25(5), 441–453. doi:10.1080/01443410500042076.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313(5791), 1310–1397. doi:10.1126/science.1128317.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009). Recursive processes in self-affirmation: Intervening to close the minority achievement gap. Science, 324(5925), 400–403. doi:10.1126/science.1170769.
Collins, L., & Matthey, S. (2001). Helping parents to read with their children: Evaluation of an individual and group reading motivation programme. Journal of Research in Reading, 24(1), 65–81. doi:10.1111/1467-9817.00133.
Cooper, C. R. (1977). Holistic evaluation of writing. In C. R. Cooper & L. Odell (Eds.), Evaluating writing: Describing, measuring, judging (pp. 1–31). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Darling, S., & Westberg, L. (2004). Parent involvement in children’s acquisition of reading. The Reading Teacher, 57(8), 774–776. Retrieved from http://pd.amylovesbooks.com/LL/Research_files/Parent%20program%20research.pdf
Desforges, C., & Abouchaar, A. (2003). The impact of parental involvement, parental support and family education on pupil achievement and adjustment: A literature review (Report RR433). Alberta: Queens Printer. Retrieved from http://bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/files_uploaded/uploaded_resources/18617/Desforges.pdf
Dexter, C., & Stacks, A. (2014). A preliminary investigation of the relationship between parenting, parent child shared reading practices, and child development in low-income families. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 28(3), 394–410. doi:10.1080/02568543.2014.913278.
Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1040–1048. doi:10.1037//0003-066x.41.10.1040.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Ehrenworth, M. (2014). Parents as writing partners. Educational Leadership, 71(7), 22–27.
Enochs, L., Kantrow, A., Farnsworth-Smith, T. (Producers), Joyce, W., & Oldenburg, B. (Directors). (2011). The fantastic flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore [Motion picture]. United States of America: Moonbot Studios.
Epstein, J. L., & Dauber, S. L. (1991). School programs and teacher practices of parent involvement in inner-city elementary and middle schools. Elementary School Journal, 91(3), 291–305. doi:10.1086/461656.
Fan, X., & Chen, M. (2001). Parental involvement and students’ academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 13(1), 1–22. doi:10.1023/a:1009048817385.
Fiala, C., & Sheridan, S. (2003). Parent involvement and reading: Using curriculum-based measurement to assess the effects of paired reading. Psychology in the Schools, 40(6), 613–626. doi:10.1002/pits.10128.
Fitzgerald, J., & Shanahan, T. (2000). Reading and writing relations and their development. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 39–50.
Flower, L., & Hayes, J. R. (1980). The dynamics of composing: Making plans and juggling constraints. In L. Gregg & E. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 31–50). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Graham, S. (1990). The role of production factors in learning disabled students’ compositions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 781–791. doi:10.1037/0022-06188.8.131.521.
Graham, S. (2008). Effective writing instruction for all students. Wisconsin Rapids: Renaissance Learning. Retrieved from http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R004250923GJCF33.pdf
Graham, S., Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S. P., & Whitaker, D. (1997). Role of mechanics in composing of elementary school students: A new methodological approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 170–182. doi:10.1037/0022-06184.108.40.206.
Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2000). The role of self-regulation and transcription skills in writing and writing development. Educational Psychologist, 35, 3–12. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3501_2.
Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Chambers, A. B. (2016). Evidence-based practice and writing instruction: A review of reviews. In C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (2nd ed., pp. 211–226). New York: The Guilford Press.
Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Santangelo, T. (2015). Research-based writing practices and the common core: Meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. Elementary School Journal, 115(4), 498–522. doi:10.1086/681964.
Graham, S., & Weintraub, N. (1996). A review of handwriting research: Progress and prospects from 1980 to 1994. Educational Psychology Review, 8(1), 7–87. doi:10.1007/bf01761831.
Hannon, P. (1995). Literacy, home and school: Research and practice in teaching literacy with parents. London: Falmer Press.
Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (2009). Self-regulated strategy development in writing: Premises, evolution, and the future. Teaching and Learning Writing, British Journal of Educational Psychology Monograph Series II, 6(1), 113–135. doi:10.1348/978185409x422542.
Harris, K. R., Graham, S., & Mason, L. H. (2006). Improving the writing, knowledge, and motivation of struggling young writers: Effects of self-regulated strategy development with and without peer support. American Educational Research Journal, 43(2), 295–340. doi:10.3102/00028312043002295.
Hayes, J. (1996). A new framework for understanding cognition and affect in writing. In M. Levy & S. Randsell (Eds.), The science of writing: Theories, methods, individual differences, and applications (pp. 1–27). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L. W. Gregg & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 3–29). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1986). Writing research and the writer. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1106–1113. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.41.10.1106.
Hidi, S., Berndorff, D., & Ainley, M. (2002). Children’s argument writing, interest and self-efficacy: An intervention study. Learning and Instruction, 12(4), 429–446. doi:10.1016/s0959-4752(01)00009-3.
Kellogg, R. T. (1996). A model of working memory in writing. In C. M. Levy & S. Ransdell (Eds.), The science of writing (pp. 57–71). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Klauda, S. L. (2009). The role of parents in adolescents in adolescents’ reading motivation and activity. Educational Psychology Review, 21(4), 325–363. doi:10.1007/s10648-009-9112-0.
Limpo, T., & Alves, R. A. (2013). Modeling writing development: The contribution of transcription and self-regulation to Portuguese students’ text generation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(2), 401–413. doi:10.1037/a0031391.
Limpo, T., & Alves, R. A. (2014). Implicit theories of writing and their impact on students’ response to a SRSD intervention. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(4), 571–590. doi:10.1111/bjep.12042.
Limpo, T., & Alves, R. A. (in press). Tailoring multicomponent writing interventions: The effects of coupling transcription and self-regulation training. Journal of Learning Disabilities.
Lin-Siegler, X., Dweck, C. S., & Cohen, G. L. (2016). Instructional interventions that motivate classroom learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(3), 295–299. doi:10.1037/edu0000124.
MacArthur, C. A., & Cavalier, A. R. (2004). Dictation and speech recognition technology as test accommodations. Exceptional Children, 71(1), 43–58. doi:10.1177/001440290407100103.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The childes project: Tools for analyzing talk. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Martin-Chang, S., & Gould, O. N. (2012). Reading to children versus listening to children read: Mother/child interactions as a function of principal reader. Early Education and Development, 23(6), 855–876. doi:10.1080/10409289.2011.578911.
McCutchen, D. (1996). A capacity theory of writing: Working memory in composition. Educational Psychology Review, 8(3), 299–325. doi:10.1007/BF01464076.
McCutchen, D. (2011). From novice to expert: Implications of language skills and writing-relevant knowledge for memory in the development of writing skill. Journal of Writing Research, 3(1), 51–68. doi:10.17239/jowr-2011.03.01.3.
Morrow, L. M. (2007). Developing literacy in preschool. New York: Guilford Press.
Morrow, L. M., Kuhn, R. M., & Scwanenflugel, P. J. (2006). The family fluency program. The Reading Teacher, 60, 322–333. doi:10.1598/RT.60.4.2.
Morrow, L. M., & Young, J. (1997). Parent, teacher, and child participation in a collaborative family literacy program: The effect of attitude, motivation, and literacy achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 736–742. doi:10.1037/0022-06220.127.116.116.
Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33–52. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.168.
Newman, T. H., & Bizzarri, S. A. (2011). Friday letters: Connecting students, teachers and families through writing. The Reading Teacher, 65(4), 275–280. doi:10.1002/trtr.01037.
Niklas, F., & Schneider, W. (2013). Home literacy environment and the beginning of reading and spelling. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38(1), 40–50. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2012.10.001.
Pennebaker, J. W., & Chung, C. K. (2007). Expressive writing, emotional upheavals, and health. In H. Friedman & R. Silver (Eds.), Handbook of health psychology (pp. 263 – 284). New York: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195342819.013.0018
Reutzel, D. R., Fawson, P. C., & Smith, J. A. (2005). Words to go!: Evaluating a first grade parent involvement program for “making” words at home. Reading Research and Instruction, 45(2), 119–158. doi:10.1080/19388070609558445.
Rogers, L. A., & Graham, S. (2008). A meta-analysis of single subject design writing intervention research. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 879–906. doi:10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.1249.
Saint-Laurent, L., & Giasson, J. (2005). Effects of a family literacy program adapting parental intervention to first graders’ evolution of reading and writing abilities. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 5(3), 253–278.
Saracho, O. N., & Spodek, B. (2010). Parents and children engaging in storybook reading. Early Child Development and Care, 180(10), 1379–1389. doi:10.1080/03004430903135605.
Sénéchal, M., & LeFevre, J. A. (2002). Parental involvement in the development of children’s reading skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73(2), 445–460. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00417.
Shanahan, T. (2016). Relationships between reading and writing development. In C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (2nd ed., pp. 194–209). New York: The Guilford Press.
Sherman, D. K., Hartson, K. A., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Nussbaum, A. D., Binning, K. R., Garcia, J., et al. (2013). Deflecting the trajectory and changing the narrative: How self-affirmation affects academic performance and motivation under identity threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 591–618. doi:10.1037/a0031495.
Smyth, J. M., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2008). Exploring the boundary conditions of expressive writing: Finding the right recipe. British Journal of Health Psychology, 13(1), 1–7. doi:10.1348/135910707x260117.
Starke-Meyerring, D., & Paré, A. (2011). The roles of writing in knowledge societies: Questions, exigencies, and implications for the study and teaching of writing. In D. Starke-Meyerring, et al. (Eds.), Writing in knowledge societies (pp. 3–28). West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press and WAC Clearinghouse.
Stein, N. L., & Trabasso, T. (1982). What’s in a story? An approach to comprehension and instruction. In R. Glaser (Ed.), Advances in instructional psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 213–267). Hillsdale, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.
The National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges. (2004). Writing: A ticket to work… or a ticket out. A survey of business leaders. Retrieved from http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/writingcom/writing-ticket-to-work.pdf
Troia, G. A., Harbaugh, A. G., Shankland, R. K., Wolbers, K. A., & Lawrence, A. M. (2013). Relationships between writing motivation, writing activity, and writing performance: Effects of grade, gender, and ability. Reading and Writing, 26(1), 17–44. doi:10.1007/s11145-012-9379-2.
Troia, G. A., Shakland, R. K., & Wolbers, K. A. (2012). Motivation research in writing: Theoretical and empirical considerations. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 28(1), 5–28. doi:10.1080/10573569.2012.632729.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2011). UNESCO and education: Everyone has the right to education. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002127/212715e.pdf
Walton, G. M. (2014). The new science of wise psychological interventions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(1), 73–82. doi:10.1177/0963721413512856.
Weigel, D. J., Martin, S. S., & Bennett, K. K. (2006). Mothers’ literacy beliefs: Connections with the home literacy environment and pre-school children’s literacy development. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 6(2), 191–211. doi:10.1177/1468798406066444.
Wilson, T. (2006). The power of social psychological interventions. Science, 313(5791), 1251–1252. doi:10.1126/science.1133017.
Wilson, T. (2011). Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change. London: Penguin Group.
Wilson, T., & Buttrick, N. (2016). New directions in social psychological interventions to improve academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(3), 392–396. doi:10.1037/edu0000111.
Wollman-Bonilla, J. E. (2000). Family message journals: Teaching writing through family involvement. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Wollman-Bonilla, J. E. (2001). Family involvement in early writing instruction. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 1(2), 167–192. doi:10.1177/14687984010012003.
Yeo, L. S., Ong, W. W., & Ng, C. M. (2014). The home literacy environment and preschool children’s reading skills and interest. Early Education and Development, 25(6), 791–814. doi:10.1080/10409289.2014.862147.
The study reported in this article was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Grant PTDC/PSI-PCO/110708/2009). We thank all parents, children and teachers who participated in this study. We also thank Charles Bazerman and Teresa Limpo for the careful reading on earlier versions of the manuscript.
About this article
Cite this article
Camacho, A., Alves, R.A. Fostering parental involvement in writing: development and testing of the program Cultivating Writing. Read Writ 30, 253–277 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-016-9672-6
- Parental involvement
- Parental intervention
- Writing skills
- Writing motivation