Principles and Practices in Four New Zealand Family Focused Adult Literacy Programs: Towards wellbeing in diverse communities

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Jane Furness


The field of family literacy, both theory and practice, has much to offer adult literacy education. However, family approaches in adult literacy are under-theorised and underdeveloped if the holistic wellbeing of the intended participants in programs based on these approaches is the primary concern. This article discusses one dimension of a larger study which explored the wellbeing-related effects of participation in four family focused adult literacy programs in New Zealand. This article discusses the principles and practices that were common across the programs. The study found that, despite differences in program content, foci and approaches, common principles and practices reflected shared values and beliefs about literacy and about people which shaped the program design and participants’ experiences of the program. I reaffirm the ideological nature of literacy, highlighting the necessity of paying attention to values and beliefs in literacy programs in order that the effects of involvement in them are in the best interests of individual participants, their families and their communities.

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Author Biography

Jane Furness, University of Waikato

Jane Furness has worked in adult education for eighteen years and has taught in the areas of family and community literacy, cultural and linguistic diversity and community psychology at the University of Waikato. An Associate of the Community Psychology Programme at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand and a Registered Psychologist, she recently completed her PhD in family literacy exploring links to wellbeing.