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Discussion Of Findings About Parents' Education Level

By Author: carling
Total Articles: 129

There was a wide variety of print uses by parents. Being indicative of parents' education level, several parents had stated that were looking for employment such as cashier work in grocery or department stores or fast-food restaurants. Only a couple of parents in this study reported work-related literacy activities. Many of the parents had multiple children, which related in many ways to the types of print engagement. For example, communication with the school by writing notes and reading information on scheduled events, as well as reading medication bottles and food packaging, were common events. Some of the parents reported engaging in literacy events for leisure or entertainment, such as magazine reading for gossip or news, as well as reading horoscopes. This possible need for escape from present situations was also found in Finlay's (1999) adult literacy exploratory curriculum. Moreover, some parents claimed to engage in reading stories, mostly crime fiction. Because many parents moved frequently, sometimes for short-term employment (migrant workers as well as other parents) or for personal reasons (e.g., "to hide whereabouts from the father of the children"), completing job/housing applications or reading and signing a lease were common activities.

The reading of store advertisements and coupons was a common event. Parents commonly reported to engage in label writing when paying bills and mailing letters. Reading/writing of print on calendars and grocery lists provided a semblance of organization for parents in their often busy lives as many of the participants had several children. Reading doctors' notes, how to operate new appliances, and container print provided important information for the safety and health of families. Greeting card and postal letter reading and writing often served a social function for these parents. Parents also frequently reported reading television guides or bus schedules for recreation and work-related purposes.

This research demonstrated the many types of print engagement in the lives of low-SES families. Unlike the parent in Purcell-Gates's (1995) study who often relied on family members to support her interactions with print because of her low literacy level, print was readily engaged in by participants in this study. However, variations in levels of literacy knowledge between these studies may account for such differences. This study offers adult educators as well as educators working in family literacy programs insightful information on the types of print experiences low-SES adults report to engage in as part of their everyday lives. This research provides a basis for literacy instruction within meaningful events for adult learners and supports educators' attempts to link in-school and out-of-school literacy. It may be ineffective to initiate literacy instruction using materials in adult literacy programs that are considered authentic by the mainstream population but which have no general use in the lives of those outside the mainstream. For example, reading newspaper stories was not a common event for participants in this study. However, parents claimed to read coupons and fliers within the newspaper, as well as their horoscopes. As parents' literacy levels increase through literacy instruction, parents will begin to read more widely (Purcell-Gates et al., 2002) and further print materials may become authentic for adult learners. It has been suggested that beginning instruction should build on previous experiences and should be meaningful to learners (Taylor, 2006). This seems especially important for adults who struggle with literacy learning.
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