Using digital technologies to support literacy of parents and children

Project Outline

The family is a key site of literacy learning. The single biggest influence on a child’s development during their early years is the role of their parents. Family literacy is the phrase used to encompass the many activities in the home that develop literacy learning as well as educational programmes to support these. Digital family literacy is a recently coined term to describe the activities in the home that support the development of digital literacy and the digital practices that support literacy development more broadly. The distinction between literacy and digital literacy is becoming blurred as more and more of our literacy practices are mediated by technology. Definitions of literacy include digital practices, technology and media and digital literacy practices assume proficiency of literacy skills. The over-arching goal of this project is to use technology to improve the literacy skills of parents with literacy learning needs through a family digital literacy programme. This project will focus on parents in families with children in stages 1 and 2 of primary school (junior infants to second class). The specific literacy focus will be the constrained literacy skills which are key components of the Junior Primary Language Curriculum (NCCA, 2017). The over-arching goal will be addressed through the following research questions:

Research Team

This project is headed by Dr Ann Devitt and Dr Colm Ross in partnership with NALA.

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Research Funding

This project is funded by the Irish Research Council through COALESCE (grant number COALESCE/2019/102).

Research Questions

  1. What are the individual and family literacy practices of families where a parent has literacy learning needs, in particular focusing on the uses of and access to technology?
  2. What technologies to support literacy are effective in developing constrained early literacy skills (e.g. letter knowledge, phonics)?
  3. Can these technologies, employed in a family literacy programme, support family literacy practices and develop the literacy skills of both parents and children?


Participatory; Collaborative; Family Focused; Community Orientated; Empowering.


The project is structured as a mixed-methods Design-Based Research (DBR) project. Design-based research proceeds in cycles of needs analysis, design, implementation and evaluation where researchers and practitioners collaborate to address issues in real-world contexts.

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