Already in early childhood, children differ significantly in their language acquisition, as can be seen in variations of vocabulary sizes during elementary school. Comprehensive support of children at schools and at home, acknowledging families’ homes as the most influential environment for child development, is considered a promising strategy to closing young children’s language and literacy gaps. Meta-studies have shown effects on child language and literacy outcomes of several programs targeting the home environment and of School-Family Partnership (SFP) programs that connect home and school. No effects have been reported for the Dutch school approach (In Dutch: Voor- en Vroegschoolse Educatie) that targets child development at schools and has no integrated parent component. In addition, fewer effects have been found for low-SES (e.g., low education) groups of parents in programs targeting the home environment and improving SFPs, leading to an appeal for tailoring programs to the needs of diverse groups of parents. Finally, little attention has been given to how programs can be tailored to the specific needs of lower-educated parents and how teachers can acquire the required skills to work with lower-educated parents.
We aim to design a program that improves teacher guidance in their work with young children (aged 3-8). The main research question of this thesis is: What approach can teachers of young children use to build partnerships with lower-educated parents in support of their young children’s language development?
Acknowledging the needs of both lower-educated parents and practitioners, we applied a design-based research approach in close collaboration with the stakeholders involved. We created the program At Home in Language (AHL) with seven theoretical steps to establish SFPs with lower-educated parents in support of child language development.