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My Baby and Me

My Baby and Me

General aims of these sessions:

·         To engage early school leaver mothers of young children

·         To increase parent and child interaction on literacy/numeracy activities at home

·         Provide a book each class per family to use at home (or use library as venue)

·         For parents to meet others and share useful ideas on supporting their children’s learning

·         To experience a positive, stimulating and friendly learning environment

·         For parents to become positive role models for their children’s learning and to continue their own lifelong learning journey

Topic Content
  1. Sharing Books

When can I start to read to my baby?

Why is it important?

How to do this.

What books to use. Joining the library.

  1. Play and routines

Why is play and routines so important?

What is involved- language, thinking skills

Types of play. Safety tips. Reading as part of routine.

  1. Talking together with your baby

Why should I talk to my baby?

Helping children communicate

How reading helps talking. Listening skills

  1. Sharing songs and rhymes

What can children learn from rhymes?

Listening for patterns

What rhymes can we remember?

What songs do children sing?  Books with rhymes

  1. Technology and children

How much screen time for baby?

Making the most of television

Digital toys/ books versus traditional toys/books. Online safety tips

The importance of parent and child interaction

  1. Feeding  your baby

When to start? Weaning tips

What do we use now? Cost versus nutrition

Staying healthy Mum and baby.  Three sample meals

       Useful websites:  Good worksheets  parent advice and support  Still Face Experiment: Dr. Edward Tronick Rhymers are readers  Importance of play  Feeding babies



Literacy begins at Home

A Review of My Baby and Me Pilot Project 2013-2015

Mary Flanagan, Coordinator, Clare Family Learning Project




Clare Family Learning Project responded to a request by a funder to develop, pilot and evaluate a course targeting priority mothers and their babies. On gathering information from various stakeholders a My Baby and Me course was developed. Parents attended with their young baby avoiding the need for childcare. The course stressed the importance of the parent’s role in helping very young children’s oral language, storytelling and future reading skills. It was felt that waiting until children reached pre-school may be too late. A free high quality book was provided to each family at each class. Ten courses were delivered between autumn 2013 and July 2015 reaching 54 parents in three locations. Evaluations show parents did not realise they played such an important educational role in their children’s lives and many changed their behaviour as a result: visiting the library, spending more time reading together and being more conscious of talking together. The pilot project showed that mothers wanted to learn more, were eager to help their children, while learning was immediately useful and relevant to the participant’s own lives.

The course could be used in other locations as a way to attract parents into an informal learning environment who otherwise would not engage or progress in adult or further education.









Flanagan, M. (2016). Literacy Begins At Home. A Review of My Baby and Me Pilot Project 2013-2015. in Haugh, K. (Ed.) Limerick Education Centre and Clare Education Centre – 2016 Research Conference Journal. Volume IV p58-62.







  1. A brief history of Clare Family Learning Project

Denny Taylor (1983) coined the phrase ‘family literacy’ as she became aware of the literacy happening naturally in homes prior to children starting school. Family learning is a more holistic term focusing on positive learning experiences and has become an umbrella term which describes a wide variety of educational intervention programmes that have an intergenerational focus in their design and delivery (Godfrey and Green, 2000).

Clare Family Learning Project (CFLP) was established in 1994 in response to local parents’ requests for literacy support to help with their children’s homework. Following a series of pilot projects a resource pack was developed and published in 2000. Training for facilitators to deliver courses to parents began in 1999. By 2015, 48 courses were provided nationally, reaching 769 tutors. In 2014 the project reached over 400 parents across the county, delivering 52 courses, using 26 different course types in 23 venues. The project is based within the adult literacy services of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board.


  1. Scoping exercise

2.1 Setting the discussion in context.

Initial meetings between the funder and CFLP, held in May 2013 examined the emergent literacy needs of very young children and ways to support early school leaver mothers. Discussions included how to engage hard to reach parents, identify gaps in local provision and creating an informal learning environment with a strong literacy focus. Breaking the intergenerational cycle of educational disadvantage by encouraging mothers to return to education allows children (who will be at risk of leaving school early) to see positive attitudes and lifelong learning engagement. The pilot builds on the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy priority of enabling parents and communities to support children’s literacy and numeracy development (2011, p19).

  1. 2 Background research

Literacy begins at home. Taylor (1983) examined literacy practices within families. Her work showed that literate environments at home are often a prelude to academic achievement in school. Problems arise if the home literacy is not the same as the dominant literacy used in school. Evidence from the Hart-Risley (1996) long-term study showed ‘…children who hear a wealth of language before age three will experience success in school. The study shows that children who have experienced an abundance of language in the form of positive, articulate conversation and read-alouds will have heard 32 million more words than their peers on starting school.’ It showed that children in monolingual homes can start school 18 months behind in language skills if there is little parent child interaction and reading at home.


Research in Britain in the 1980s serving to justify family literacy programmes, examined the extent of young children’s knowledge of literacy before formal schooling (Hall 1987), awareness of story (Wells, 1987), knowledge of letters (Tizard, Blatchford, Burket, Farquhar, & Plewis 1988), and phonological awareness (Bryant & Bradley, 1985). If children have these forms of knowledge at school entry, it seems reasonable to infer that they have acquired them in their families. If they do not have these desirable forms of knowledge, family literacy programs can help children acquire them (Bird et al. 2012. p326).

Bird and Pahl (1994) found pioneering approaches by adult literacy tutors showed that literacy courses for parents in community settings could, in a non-judgemental way, help parents understand how to support their children’s developing literacy.  The findings from the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education report ‘Young Parents: Does that include us?’ (NIACE: 2005) gives clues as to what might be needed to reach young parents locally in Clare. The report found parents wanted: ‘…to meet other parents and share their experiences; for their children to increase their social development; to improve their own career or employment prospects; to have their own practical needs met before they could settle and engage; venues close to where they lived, having an environment that was unlike school, advice on topics of interest to them and how they can influence and support their children’s skills.’ The report suggested having empathetic staff delivering short programmes that achieve quick success, boosts confidence and encourages attendance. The first six week My Baby and Me course was developed borrowing the title from the Adult Literacy Service in County Sligo Vocational Education Committee.

2.3 Gathering information

Meetings with staff from a wide variety of community settings were conducted to ascertain the level of need, and to locate possible venues close to where parents lived.

  1. Review of work done

CFLP developed, piloted and evaluated a six week course for parents and their babies (0-3), with a strong focus on oral language, storytelling and reading. From November 2013 to July 2015 ten My Baby and Me courses were delivered in County Clare. Seven of these were delivered in Location A, with two in Location B and one in Location C. Word of the pilot spread and in Spring 2015 two primary schools both within the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) initiative, requested the project deliver the course in house.

3.1 Aims

The course aimed to provide parents with a positive, stimulating and friendly learning environment; increasing parent and child interaction on literacy activities at home; provision of a free book per family each class encouraging reading together at home; social opportunities for parents and children; and for parents to become positive role models for their children as lifelong learners. The course was broken down into six topics: sharing books with baby, playing is learning, talking together with baby, sharing songs and rhymes, technology and children and feeding your baby.

3.2 Promotion

Forty-three people were contacted from a wide range of state agencies, schools, health providers, community groups and other services to promote the course to parents who would benefit most. There was strong support for the pilot and many referred clients. A variety of media promotions were used including print, radio, social media and online local newspapers.


  • Attendance

140 hours of tuition was provided. 70 parents attended over ten courses, reaching a total of 54 mothers and one father. Some attended more than one programme. Eight parents attended more than one course. 17 participants had full attendance with 15 participants at 80% attendance. Learners included 38 long term unemployed, 12 unemployed with 19 working part time. Two had no formal education, seven had primary education, 24 lower second level and 13 attended some upper second level education, with seven having Level 6. Priority mothers included four Roma, three Travellers, a refugee and three migrants whilst seven single parents attended. Both external and internal barriers impacted on participation, including ill health, appointments, low levels of confidence, shift work.


  1. Findings
  • The programme was successful in reaching parents who had left school early.
  • Parents completed a pre and post short questionnaire on each course, recording the levels of existing talk, reading, play and technology use at home between parent and child. Most parents were reading once per week. This changed to reading daily in most cases.
  • An intercultural aspect developed as parents shared stories and traditions from their backgrounds.
  • Providing a free book for baby per family each week was attractive to parents.
  • Most parents wanted to continue to learn. One mother met with the Coordinator of the One to One Literacy provision and started classes. Many did not know how to access education as an adult. This short course stimulated an interest in a choice of
  • Parents shared their problems for example some worried about the Public Health Nurse visiting their home. As a result the Public Health Nurse was invited to attend and listen to concerns. Having prepared their questions as a group gave parents confidence.
  • The class became a peer support group and friendships formed as some visited each others’ homes between classes.
  • Quite a high proportion of mothers never visited the library. A library visit was included on each course, the majority of mothers signed up if they were not already members.
  • Useful websites, Youtube clips, apps and blogs were shared while concerns about children growing up in a bilingual home were addressed.
  • Parents were surprised at the importance of their role as their child’s first teacher, generating feelings of increased responsibility, confidence and a commitment to helping their baby learn.
  • All parents had a positive learning experience and recommended more courses as their children get older.
  • CFLP through a strong promotional campaign built up good relationships with many agencies, leading to ongoing referrals to other family learning courses.

5.0 Lessons Learned

The age profile of parents was older than expected with the majority in the 25-40 age group. Increased use of social media to promote future classes for parents under 25 is planned.

Retaining the flexibility to add extra classes to meet the requests of parents is important. Parents requested support on learning some first aid tips and were anxious about delays in language development. The project was able to respond with a visit from the Public Health Nurse, while the Speech and Language Therapist also visited courses. Having experienced tutors who empathize with what parents are going through is important.

The pilot was successful in supporting parents who had left school early. Parents are very much equal partners with schools in helping their children learn. It is hoped that this pilot will have a long term impact on both the parent and their baby in their relationships and learning. Literacy that begins in the home can be supported by the family as the lifelong learning journey begins for each child.



Bird, V., Brooks, G., and Hannon, P., 2012.  Family Literacy in England  in Hanna Wasik, B. (Ed.) Handbook of Family Literacy  2nd Edition. London: Routledge. p 326,

Bird, V. & Pahl, K. (1994). Parent literacy in a community setting. RaPAL Bulletin, No.24 (Summer), 6-15.

Department of Education and Skills. 2011. Literacy and Numeracy Learning For Life. DES: Dublin.

Dutton, Y., Haggart, J., Smith, L. 2005. National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, National Youth Agency (NYA), Young Adults Learning Partnership : ‘Young Parents: Does that include us?’  Leicester, England: NIACE.

Godfrey, J. and Greene, M. (2000) Family Learning Resource Guide.  Ennis: Clare Family Learning Project.

Hart B. and Risley T.1996. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore: Brooks Publishing. p.98.


Taylor, D. 1983. Family Literacy: Young Children Learning to Read and Write. Exeter, New Hampshire: Heinemann. p120.




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