Informatie voor het bibliotheeknetwerk

7 ingredients for a succesful family literacy approach

ITTA UvA (a language institute) was commissioned by the KB, National Library of the Netherlands to conduct an evaluation study for their national subsidy program that enables libraries to give an impulse to the quality of their (local) family literacy approach.

This quality impulse involved a one-time grant of €4,200 per library, that allowed 110 libraries in the Netherlands to expand their plans regarding a family literacy approach, specifically aiming parents who do not usually visit the library. In doing so, they could make use of a number of supporting services and products, such as training, organizational guidance and a number of written sources and documents for inspiration (inspiring examples from libraries across the country and formats for an action plan). An online survey was used for the initial evaluation (completed by 82 libraries) and ITTA UvA interviewed 11 of those 82 libraries about their approach and experiences with the supporting trainings and services. In addition, ITTA UvA observed family literacy activities at three libraries, where participating parents were interviewed about their experiences. 

The family literacy approach is a hot topic! 

The evaluation study shows that the Quality Impulse for improvement of family literacy programmes has resulted in an improvement of the family literacy approach in almost all participating libraries. Libraries are fully aware of their social position in this nationwide approach and that cooperation with other local or regional partners is essential for a solid family approach. In addition, we see that the needs of parents are increasingly being considered as a starting point for organizing family-oriented activities. 

Conclusions per research question 

The evaluation study answered three research questions: 

  1. Has the use of subsidy funds and support services led to an increased quality of the family approach? 
    The vast majority of participating libraries indicate that the subsidy funds have contributed to an increased quality of the family approach. In particular, the libraries have been able to strengthen their family activities and to reach more (new) parents. Moreover, we found that an impulse subsidy such as this – with a relatively small amount – is attractive for libraries as it enables them to experiment with new approaches and literacy activities on a small scale, before upscaling it. Finally, many libraries reported having benefitted from the trainings and the supporting documents that were mentioned above. 
  2. Do the family-oriented activities meet the (learning) needs and wishes of families? 
    The parents who participated in the focus groups mentioned appreciating the familiy-oriented activities and that the activities have an important social function. Librarians also indicate that (new) parents often continue visiting the library after participating in an activity and that they see parents developing their (language) skills. At the same time, libraries are continuously looking how to improve customized services and to find ways in which their activities meets the needs of parents better. With regard to this last point, it is beneficial that Dutch libraries often work with external (local) partners: these partners generally have a clear picture of existing needs amongst families. 
  3. What lessons can be learned for the future? 
    A sustainable continuation of a family literacy approach is essential, especially because establishing a succesful one is a matter of patience and perseverence. Libraries are struggling with the resources and the time they have for this and will therefore have to make choices and to prioritize. This certainly applies to smaller libraries in non-urban areas. In addition, libraries indicate that for a future-proof family approach, it is essential to be able to structurally exchange good practices, to gain knowledge about various subjects and to properly shape internal and external cooperation.

7 ingredients for a succesful family literacy approach 

The study identified seven success factors that play a role in matching the family literacy activities to the (learning) needs of parents (research question 2) and lessons for the future (research question 3). They are mentioned on the poster below. 

Recommendations for the KB and the SPN

The evaluation study also resulted in recommendations for the KB and other supporting and consulting organizations in the library sector. The recommendations were formulated in co-creation sessions with about 30 individual libraries. For some of the recommendations, we also provide ideas and inspiration for the implemenation of it. You find the recommendations below: 

  1. Encourage libraries to think about the purpose of the family literacy-oriented activities. Is it the goal language enhancement of parents or is it supporting and strengthening rich interaction between parent and child? Do you want to offer inspiration or do you want to enable parents and help them select languistic activities that fit their child?
  2. Enable libraries to organize their activities basedon the needs of visiting parents and to organize a demand-oriented and activating family literacy programme. Among others, you could consider the structural use of intakes and evaluations, the use of coaching and conversation techniques, the organizing of functional linguistic activities and strong local cooperation with partners.
  3. Explore the possibilities for the structural deployment of community brokers in various roles in local family literacy programmes and facilitate libraries in this matter. 
  4. Develop instruments which project leaders can use for a family literacy program in order to evaluate the activities with participants and structurally monitor the results of the activities. In addition, give examples of other ways of monitoring, such as storytelling, to visually present the results to (local) partners or the municipality. 
  5. Provide structural training opportunities regarding the family literacy approach, for all relevant library departments. Training possibilities should include knowledge of the topic, development of project management skills and topics that are relevent for the local context. 
  6. Create a national online platform for libraries who work on literacy with a family approach and make sure it gets publicity. On this platform you could gather knowledge and inspiration in order to organize family-oriented literacy activities. 
    The Dutch platform is found here:
  7. Set up a knowledge sharing and support structure that enables libraries to use the products of national supporting organization of the library sector, but also to learn from the experience and expertise of libraries from different regions.For example: a national buddy system, intervision, inspirational video’s about successful projects or an accessible overview of current family literacy-activities across the country. 
  8. Develop different cases or case studies based on existing good practices and the 7 ingredients for a succesful family approach that inspire libraries. Make sure to create a variety of casus, for example a case for urban libraries and a case for non-urban libraries. 
  9. Develop a format that supports libraries to clearly (re)formulate their ambition and vision for the family approach and that creates an internal support base. Also provide advice on how to translate policy on family approach to professional positions and roles. Implementing a family literacy programme might require new competences in the team. 
  10. Provide tools for reflecting on the position of the library in the collaboration with (local) partners and for decision making in this aspect. What is your expertise? Do you take on a role as expert and consultant, for example on literacy? Or do you organize activities yourself? Or do you facilitate? 
  11. Provide tools for external collaboration, for example practical advice when shaping external cooperation, examples of collaboration agreements and insights in the local and national socio-educational structures. 
    A Dutch example of the latter is the website