Evaluation of family literacy programs: A case study of better beginnings, a library-initiated family literacy bookgifting program in Western Australia
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Place of Publication
School of Education
This paper examines the nature of family literacy programs, with a particular focus on those that are based around the provision of free books to babies and young children, sometimes called “bookgifting” programs. First, the paper explores the rationale for family literacy programs in general and identifies some issues in their evaluation. It then focuses specifically on bookgifting programs. Using examples from several well-established programs, it reviews the research on which they are based, with particular reference to evaluation procedures. Next, the paper identifies some important issues that need to be addressed when planning and evaluating these programs, and notes some fundamental differences between particular programs that may have impacted on the results. It argues that this area of research needs stronger definition and a more inclusive approach to evaluation that includes both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. In order to illustrate the potential of a mixed-method approach, the paper examines the evaluation of the Better Beginnings bookgifting program for babies that has been initiated, developed, and extended by the State Library of Western Australia for over a decade. The paper concludes by suggesting that effective program evaluation is complex and multifaceted and must consider changes in behavior, confidence, and attitudes, as well as the ways in which such programs are experienced and integrated into family literacy practices. This approach provides insight into the contextual variables that determine the effectiveness of programs within and across families, and therefore inform further program development.