The concept of “family literacy” originated in the doctoral research of Denny Taylor. Recently colleagues and students have nominated her for several research awards in recognition of her lifetime commitment to transdisciplinary family literacy scholarship and fieldwork with families living in urban and rural poverty in the U.S., and in regions of armed conflict and catastrophic events around the world. This document was constructed to support one of the awards for which she has been nominated.
Every study Denny Taylor has undertaken in the past forty years is interconnected and reflects her deep commitment to culturally relevant research grounded in the everyday lives of families and communities. Her research encourages local contextualized changes that are historically and politically situated, and she has had a global impact in raising awareness of the systemic complexity of language, literacy and learning in diverse family and community settings throughout the world. Verification of the importance of the concept of family literacy is provided by the more than 7,000,000 Internet search results for “family literacy” and 5,640,000 for “family literacy nights”, and of the importance of Denny Taylor’s family literacy research by over 1,100 citations in academic publications to her scholarly work.
There are family literacy centers and coalitions across the United States, and many governments around the world have adopted the concept of family literacy. UNESCO uses family literacy as an organizing principle for the support of vulnerable populations and in 2012 published A Handbook of Family Literacy. There are family literacy programs in China, and among the countries that have family literacy programs for refugee women and their children are Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and The Democratic Republic of Congo. The remarkable fact is that there are now family literacy initiatives in every Member State of the United Nations.
Catherine Compton-Lilly, Rebecca Rogers, and Tisha Y. Lewis report that Denny Taylor is one of the most cited researchers in the field of family literacy, along with Shirley Brice Heath (MacArthur Genius Award) and Luis Moll (American Academy of Science). In 2012 in the Reading Research Quarterly, these researchers write:
The four most cited researchers all conducted descriptive qualitative research projects that focused on culture, language, social class, and/or race. These studies included … Denny Taylor’s (1983; Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988) research with European American and African American Families. … Postmodern stances are discernable in these descriptive studies in that they documented a limitless range of potential literacy practices and purposes (p. 42).
Compton-Lilly, Rogers, and Lewis provide a brief history of family literacy politics and programs stating, “Historically, U.S. policies have identified family literacy as a potential solution to economic and social disparities. During the 1980’s, multiple family literacy programs were established through public and private efforts” (p. 34). These researchers also note, “Family literacy efforts have emerged around the world. Park (2008) studied the effects of children’s home literacy on later reading achievement in 25 countries, including Singapore, Argentina, Colombia, and Iran, as well as European countries” (p. 34).