Historically, literacy interventions supported by governments, international agencies and NGOs in the developing world have focused on school-based inputs in the form of trainings for teachers, capacity building of education officials and provision of textbooks or instructional materials. However, in places where classrooms may be overcrowded, school days short, and teacher and student absenteeism high, one may question the ability of schools alone to make a difference in children's learning. If children do not have sufficient opportunities to learn in school, can students learn outside the school system instead? There has, in recent years, been a growing emphasis on the role that out-of-school learning can play, recognizing that learning opportunities in school alone may not be sufficient. Therefore, in addition to development of teacher trainings and provision of materials, interventions may also aim to increase learning opportunities outside the school system by organizing other venues for learning to occur and encouraging parents to provide these opportunities as well. Such opportunities may arise from the creation of community libraries, the organization of community activities (e.g. read-a-thons, reading buddy programs, story-telling contests) and the implementation of awareness raising workshops with communities and parents on the importance of reading (for instance, Creative Associates, Save the Children, Room to Read, World Vision, FHI360, among others, all integrate some form of community involvement programming into their literacy interventions1).
In general, out-of-school learning opportunities include three types of learning supports: parental involvement2, after-school learning, and summer learning (Weiss et al, 2009). The emphasis on parental involvement, in particular, is based on the belief that parents and the home environment influence children's intellectual and social development (Mattingly et al, 2002). A large body of research shows that parental involvement is a strong predictor of children's academic achievement (Coleman et al, 1966; Fantuzzo et al, 1995; Fehrmann et al 1987; Henderson 1987). In fact, this belief led the United States government to devote an entire section to parental involvement in Title 1 of the No Child Left Behind Act3.
If parental involvement does contribute to a child's learning, then it would seem logical that education service providers and international NGOs make parental involvement an important component of their programming agenda. This paper looks at the evidence around parental involvement at home in order to gain insights as to what exact type of parental involvement, if any, is effective and in what contexts. We start by expanding on the definition of parental involvement; we provide a brief overview of the methodology used for this review; and finally we review the evidence by type of parental involvement.