Immigrant Parents and Early Childhood Programs: Addressing Barriers of Literacy, Culture, and Systems Knowledge

Maki Park & Margie McHugh
Date of Publication: 
June, 2014
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

With more than 25 percent of children ages 8 and above having an immigrant parent, this report addresses the "urgent need to address barriers facing low-literate and limited English proficient (LEP) parents of young children." Forty-seven (47) percent of these parents are LEP and 45 percent are low income.  Moreover, immigrant parents are more than twice as likely to be low-educated, i.e. lacking a high school diploma or its equivalent. Based on field research in six states, a series of focus groups, and demographic analysis, the report stresses the connection between effective parent engagement and the academic success of children from immigrant backgrounds.  The report details the various forms of parental engagement strategies that have proven effective in the past, including literacy and English language programs for parents. The authors recommend the creation of a "large-scale pilot program" jointly sponsored by HHS and the U.S. Department of Education to address the educational needs of these parents. They also urge efforts to improve accountability for how Title 1 family engagement funds are utilized.   In addition, they recommend the collection of data on parents' levels of education and language proficiency prior to kindergarten entry so that policymakers can design appropriate interventions. As the U.S. has entered an "era of early childhood system-building" at a time when immigration levels are at historic highs, the report concludes that the early childhood field should be "on the front line" of efforts to promote the integration of immigrants in the U.S. (Abstract courtesy of Dr. Nicholas V. Montalto).

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Park, M. & McHugh, M. (2014). Immigrant Parents and Early Childhood Programs: Addressing Barriers of Literacy, Culture, and Systems Knowledge. Migration Policy Institute. Washington: DC. Available at: