Dr. Susan B. Neuman is a professor at the University of Michigan, School of Education. She recently returned to this position after serving as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. Her publication, “Changing the Odds”, synthesizes what research has shown is necessary to ensure that family literacy programs and other early intervention programs for at risk children and families have the greatest outcomes.
Dr. Neuman outlines seven major program principles that lead to positive and ongoing benefits for participants. Upon examination, the Centre for Family Literacy’s programs exhibit these principles across the board!
The research showed that:
1. Targeting children with the greatest needs produced the most benefit for the participants. For this reason the majority of our work is with children, in the context of their families, who are at risk in terms of not developing adequate literacy skills.
2. The earlier children and families receive help, the better, but intervention must be developmentally appropriate.
3. More intensive programming produces larger positive effects, and similarly, children and parents who participate most actively and regularly show the greatest overall progress.
4. In order to bridge the gap in learning levels, programs must incorporate compensatory instruction that accelerates learning and allows children who are “behind” to catch up to their peers.
5. Coordinated services that are respectful, culturally sensitive and link families to additional supports are also critical for programs to be successful.
6. It is no surprise that highly trained professional staff were found to be key to delivering effective programs. The Centre’s role in providing training for family literacy practitioners and others working with families in Alberta and across Canada is a significant effort to increase knowledge in the field.
7. The final principle is accountability. Dr. Neuman states, “programs that monitor progress, provide careful oversight, create clear expectations, and evaluate effects have shown dramatic results.”
“Children learn best when they are healthy, safe, and in close and enduring relationships with family, caregivers, and teachers.”
Dr. Susan B. Neuman