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Leah Oswald's Asset-based Community Development MOU Page




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Parents Are Teachers: Early and Family Literacy Community Outreach


Partners: Susan McDowell, Executive Director, Lifeworks and Leah Oswald, Graduate Student, Austin Public Library and Texas Woman's University




  1. Promote school readiness in children, ages 0-5, residing at LifeWorks supportive housing
  2. Teach teen and young adult parents the five early literacy practices that support their children’s development of early literacy skills and empower teen and young adult parents, as their child’s first and best teachers, to engage their children in literacy-based activities aligned with the tenants of ECRR2
  3. Promote the Austin Public Library as a free resource that supports LifeWork’s families’ informational needs and their young children’s language and literacy development




     4. Objectives for Goal #1: 

A. Twenty-five or more unique families attend the family and early childhood literacy programs in the first three programs at LifeWorks

B. Fifty percent or more of the preschool age children attending the programs demonstrate an increase in print awareness, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary, narrative skills, and print motivation.


     5. Objectives for Goal #2: 

A. Fifty percent or more of parents attending the family and early childhood literacy programs become aware of early literacy skills and engage their children in activities related to the five early literacy practices of ECCR2

B. Eighty percent of parents attending the programs report that they read daily to their children


     6. Objectives for Goal #3: 

A. Twenty-five percent or more of families attending the programs report visiting the library once a month or more

B. Twenty-five percent or more increase in library card holders of families attending the library programs


ALSC Competencies: Oswald_MOU_Competencies.docx


Evidence-based Practice 


Deckner, Deborah F., Lauren. B. Adamson, and Roger Bakeman. 2006. “Child and Maternal Contributions to Shared Reading: Effects on Language and Literacy Development.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 27, no. 1: 31-41. Retrieved through Elsevier SD Freedom Collection. Texas Woman’s University Library (accessed November 25, 2014).


In this study, Deckner, Anderson and Bakeman (2006) examine the effects of home literacy practices, children’s interest in reading, and mothers’ metalingual utterances during reading on children’s expressive and receptive language development, letter knowledge, and their knowledge of print concepts. The purpose of this quantitative longitudinal study was to evaluate children’s letter knowledge and knowledge of print concepts at 27 moths of age, and then determine how home literacy practices, children’s interest in reading, and rate of mothers’ metalingual utterances during shared reading at 27 months predicted children’s expressive and receptive language development at 30 and 42 months and their knowledge of letters and print concepts at 42 months. 


This study consisted of 55 mother-child dyads. At 18 months of age, all children were administered assessments of receptive and expressive language. At 27 months mothers were given three age-appropriate books and ask to share them with their children as they normally would; the mothers' utterances during shared reading was assessed and coded. At 30 months of age, children returned and were given receptive and expressive language assessments. At 42 months of age, children returned and were given the same language assessments and additional assessments measuring letter recognition and knowledge of print concepts.


Home literacy was scored based on the age at which parents began reading with their child, the number of times per day that a caregiver reads to the child, the average duration of shared reading events, the amount of time spent reading to the child in the past week, and parents' material support of reading as assessed through the number of children's books in the house. Child interest was assigned values based on the child’s availability, affect, and active participation during shared reading. Mothers’ utterances were coded as on-task or off-task. Then the utterances were coded as reading or discussion. Discussion utterances were then coded as non-metalingual or metalingual. Utterance were coded as metalingual if they drew attention to language itself, including prompts, responses, recasts, vocabulary introduction, and references to print elements in the book. Non-meatalingual utterances included requests for referential points, behavioral directives, simple directions, and Yes/No questions.


Cumulatively, higher results at 18-months in expressive language ability, home literacy practices, children's interest, and the rate of mothers' metalingual utterances contributed to higher than average expressive language abilities at 30 and 42 months, respectively. The results from this survey signal that parents’ early literacy efforts make a significant and lasting impact on children’s receptive and expressive communication development. The study indicates that children play an active role in their own development, as shown with the links between children’s interest and their knowledge of letters and knowledge of print. The study also supports a model of shared reading that emphasizes the importance of both parent and child contributions. 


This study supports this project’s objective of increasing the percentage of program participants who read to the children on a daily basis. The study highlights and reinforces the project’s belief that parents who engage their children in literacy-based activities and practice shared reading have a positive impact on their children developing the strong literacy skills that will ensure school readiness. This partnership project can use the findings of this study to develop a family literacy program that models the best practices for sharing books with young children. 


Weigel, Daniel J., Sally S. Martin, and Kymberley K. Bennett. 2006. "Contibutions of the Home Literacy Environment to Preschool-aged Children’s Emerging Literacy and Language Skills." Early Child Development and Care 176, no. 3-4: 357-378. Retrieved through Taylor & Francis Journals Complete. Texas Woman’s University Library (accessed November 25, 2014).


This study by Weigel, Martin and Bennett (2006) examines both the concurrent and longitudinal links to various components of the Home Literacy Environment (HLE) and the indicators of preschool-aged children’s language development. This quantitative research consists of both a concurrent and longitudinal study. The purpose of the study was to examine the associations of various components of the home literacy environment and preschool-aged children’s literacy and language development. By conducting the study in two phases, the researchers' concurrent study revealed how the components of the HLE influenced the children’s language development in the present and the longitudinal study explored the associations over a year’s time. 


The participants of this study included 85 parents, 80 mothers and 5 fathers, and 85 children, 40 girls and 45 boys, who completed both the initial and follow up study. Families and their preschool children were recruited through a list of randomly selected childcare centers in the county where the study was conducted. Most interviews took placed in family homes. Parents completed questionnaires while researchers assessed children’s language and literacy skills. Approximately one year following the initial assessment, researchers contacted parents and again assessed the children’s language and literacy skills.


The correlations between HLE components and the children’s language and literacy scores revealed important associations. The children’s print knowledge and reading interests scores were significantly linked to parental reading habits, parental reading beliefs, and parent-child activities. The children’s emergent writing skills were most significantly linked to the parent reading beliefs. The children’s expressive and receptive language skills were linked with parental demographic characteristics, parental literacy habits, and parental reading beliefs. 


One year later, the findings indicate the more often parents engaged their preschool-aged children in literacy activities in the initial assessment, the more likely the children’s print knowledge and reading interest increased in the second assessment. The second assessment showed that parental demographics continued to influence the children’s receptive and expressive language development. 


This study reveals the need when designing literacy and language programs for children to consider specific literacy environments and the early literacy skills to be addressed. This study also shows that improvements in the expressive and receptive language development in children may be directly connected to elements in parental demographic factors, such as adult basic education, adult literacy, job training and family money management. The findings of this study support the goals of this project to teach and empower young adult and teen parents to engage their children in the five early literacy practices; understanding where to best focus efforts to improve the HLE helps create better programs that improve children’s language and literacy development.


Measures for Success 


7. Data for Objectives for Goal #1: 

To measure the success of the number of families served by the project’s family literacy and early childhood programs, statistics of each program’s attendance will be recorded from sign-in sheets that parents will be asked to sign when attending programs. These attendance statistics could be used to determine if program attendance could be improved by a change in the time of day or day of the week that the programs are held.


By creating an evaluation form with a checklist of early literacy skills, observation of the children’s participation in early literacy activities can be recorded to create a narrative of any change in the early literacy behaviors of children at the start of the project after attending early literacy programs. This report could aid program facilitators in adjusting the program’s content to meet the children’s literacy needs. A parent survey will assess the early literacy skills a child demonstrates before attending early literacy programs, after attending at least three programs, and again at the end of the project. This will help the library measure the success of the project in helping children develop early literacy skills and allow assessment of adjustments that may be necessary for the success of the program. 


8. Data for Objectives for Goal #2: 

A questionnaire filled out by parents of young children living at LifeWorks supportive housing will establish the level of awareness parents have of early literacy practices and the average amount of time the parents spend reading with their children before attending the programs. Parents who attend the family and early childhood literacy programs will be asked to fill out the survey again to allow program facilitators to measure the increase, if any, in awareness of early literacy practices and types of literacy-based activities parents engage in with their children. This assessment tool will enable program facilitators to ensure gain an understanding of how parent attendees are benefiting from early literacy training. 


Program attendees will be given multiple comment and program evaluation cards that they can return at anytime during the duration of the project. This will give program facilitators the opportunity to assess the parents’ satisfaction with the program and make any adjustments as necessary. In addition to the comment and evaluation cards, program facilitators will record in spontaneous comments or feedback from attendees to includes in periodical self- evaluation reports of the project. 


9. Data for Objectives for Goal #3: 

The questionnaire used to obtain data for Objective #2 will also measure the number of parents who visit the public library one a month or more. This data will allow program facilitators to measure if there is an increase in library visits of parents attending the programs. If the results reflect that program attendees do not visit the library, program facilitators should reassess the ways in which the library is promoted at the programs. 


When parents first attend a family and early literacy program, they will receive an early literacy kit that includes an adult and child application for a library card. Statistics of submitted library applications and issued library cards will measure the increase of library cardholders in program attendees. 




10. Benefits for the non-profit agency: 

A partnership with the library allows LifeWorks to expand their capacity of service to their clients and helps further their mission. Lifeworks provides assistance to their teen and young adult clients that guides them on a path to self-sufficiency, such as social services, continuing education, financial planning, and parenting skills classes. The library can offer LifeWorks their expertise in early literacy education to help young parents at LifeWorks develop the skills that best support their children’s literacy development. The library brings family and early literacy programs to young parents and children at Lifeworks, removing the transportation or time barriers that many teen and young adult parents have in attending library programs and storytimes. This gives the clients of Lifeworks, often underserved and vulnerable young parents, greater access to their community and the benefits of their public library. 


The library can assure that young parents attending the family and early literacy programs have access to age-appropriate reading materials for their children in their home. Program facilitators will empower and motivate young parents to practice early literacy activities with their children in their home, which will result in a higher measure of early literacy skills and school readiness in the children of young adult and teen parents at LifeWorks.


11. Benefits for the library:

A project partnership with LifeWorks at their unique supportive housing development provides the library with an opportunity to provide family and early literacy programs to an underserved population of the community that may not be current library users. This community outreach opportunity increases the library’s profile in the community and raises awareness of library services to a greater number of its members. This project also gives the library access to a critical mass of young adult and teen parents for early literacy programming.


The library benefits from Lifeworks’ extensive knowledge of their client group and can work with the nonprofit to develop programs that best serve the needs of their young adult and teen parents. Lifeworks provides the library with an increased understanding of their client group and can help the library assess the gaps in service to their client group. The library also benefits from LifeWorks ability to help library program facilitators establish relationships with their client group to aide in establishing trust and respect in a population group that can be difficult to reach. 


12. Benefits for the community:

The benefits of this project partnership for the community are numerous. By supporting parents, particularly vulnerable populations living below poverty level, in developing strong early literacy skills in their children, more children will begin school ready to learn to read. This ability to read will become the foundation of a child’s academic success for years to come. For parents and their children, this means students will have a better chance of graduating high school with more opportunities on the other side it. For teachers and school administration, this means less energy and resources spent on reading intervention efforts and catching students up to classroom reading levels. 


Business owners benefit in the long term from higher graduation rates with a better educated, higher skilled workforce to employee. For taxpayers and the community at large, an educated workforce means more community members have access to jobs that pay living wages, which results in lower crime rates in the community. These benefits echo through the community impacting broader economic and social issues, improving the quality of life for all community members.


Responsibilities of the Partners

13. Non-profit Agency Responsibilities:

    • Designate a staff member to be project co-coordinator and attend monthly programs 
    • Provide facility for early literacy programs at LifeWorks
    • Promote project programs in supportive housing development newsletter
    • Promote project programs at LifeWorks Young Parents and Young Fathers Programs
    •  Display posters and distribute promotional flyers and half-flyers to resident families 
    • Survey parents to determine the day and time that works best for program attendance
    • Advise library on clients’ cultural and literacy needs
    • Organize a pre-registration signup of their clients


14. Library Responsibilities:

    • Designate staff member to be project co-coordinator 
    • Plan, organize, and facilitate enhanced storytimes and early literacy programs for parents and children at LifeWorks
    • Develop activities that engage and interest children in reading, which program facilitators will model for parents to practice at home
    • Develop resource materials to support family engagement in early literacy
    • Provide young adult and teen parents with hands-on practice with dialogic reading, fingerplays, rhyming games, and other activities to improve home literacy environments
    • Provide parents with Early Literacy Bag: includes a picture book for every family, library card application, early literacy tipsheet, age-appropriate booklists
    • Create early literacy survey and questionnaire for data collection
    • Distribute and collect comment cards and program evaluation sheets to gather feedback on programs
    • Write report to document project’s success measurements
    • Create promotional and marketing materials: flyers, half-flyers, and posters 
    • Develop Early Literacy Kits to lend each month to encourage reading at home

15. Shared Responsibilities: 

    •  Meet quarterly to evaluate and discuss what needs to be changed for a more successful partnership
    •  Solicit funds for project
    •  Determine costs for project
    •  Plan and organize a family literacy meet-and-greet event prior to the first program
    •  Identify barriers families have to visiting the library and develop strategies to improve access



16. Budget Detail: 




Funding Source


Library Staff

2 Youth Librarians/Program Facilitators

Program time (2 hours @ $22/hr) x 12 months


Planning, evaluation, resource and measurement tool development time (20 hours@ $22/hr )


$528 x 2 staff members




City of Austin/Library Budget





Lifeworks Staff

Program time 

(2 hours @ $17/hr) x 12


Planning and evaluation time (10 hours@$17/hr)






Lifeworks Budget





Posters and flyers; literacy materials;  measurement tools


City of Austin/Library Budget


Craft Supplies



City of Austin/Library Youth Services Budget


Early Literacy Bags

40 Picture Books and Cloth Bags


APL Friends Foundation


Early Literacy Lending Kits

20 themed bags ($50/bag) includes board books, a puppet or toy, and information sheets with activity suggestions


CTLS funding 

(Library solicits funds)


Private funding from LifeWorks donors (LifeWorks solicits funds)


$500 each


Meet-and-Greet Open House

Refreshments and Crafts


Outreach Budget


Project’s Total Cost


Library’s Funding


LifeWork’s Funding


Outside Funding



17. Source(s) of Funding: City of Austin/Library Budget, LifeWorks,private funding from LifeWorks donors, Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, CTLS funding, Outreach Budget



18. Project Timeline: This project will run for a year and then partners will reassess whether to continue. The start of project will be January 15, 2015 and end in January of 2016.Early Literacy Programs will be held at LifeWorks once every month. 


19. Evaluation Points: Project will be evaluated quarterly for measures of success, in March at the three month mark, then in June, in September, and the end of the project. 


Ending the Partnership 


20. Deal breaker(s): 

There are some circumstances that would be deal breakers for this project. If no families attended after the best effort was made to promote the programs, then there would be no reason for the partnership to continue. Either, the library or the nonprofit failing to show up for planned programs would end the partnership. Also, if either side failed to contribute to the evaluation process, then the partnership would dissolve. Another deal breaker for the partnership would be if library staff members were concerned for their safety. The partnership would also have to end if either group was unable to secure the funding promised for the project. 


21. Bless and release (exit strategy):

This project is planned with a yearlong commitment from the library. During the project’s length, the library will be teaching LifeWorks how to work in early literacy training into the social services they offer their clients, such as their parenting skills class and their Young Father’s Program. At the conclusion of the project and the end of the community partnership, the youth librarians involved with the project will become an advisory resource for the nonprofit staff. A year of family and early literacy programs and enhanced storytimes will lay a strong foundation for LifeWorks to build their own early literacy program to benefit children of their clients. Clear and concise conversations and intentional planning is required for a collaborative exit strategy that leaves both parties feeling good about the partnership. During the evaluation meetings, we will set an exact date for the library’s exit from the partnership to prevent any misunderstanding about the length of the time of commitment. 




Association for Library Service to Children. 2009. Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries. http://www.ala.org/alsc/edcareeers/alsccorecomps (accessed November 23, 2014).


"Connect Connection Cooperation Hand Hands Holding." Photograph. 2010. http://pixabay.com/en/connect-connection-cooperation-hand-20333/



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