Although few studies were specifically designed to understand family literacy programs for incarcerated parents and their children, the broader field of family literacy enjoys a growing body of scholarship. A search of the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) database using the term "family literacy" in the title yielded 1,187 hits. When the terms "family literacy" and "prison" were used, the number of hits dropped to 10, and "family literacy and incarcerat*" resulted in 15 hits. A search of the PsycINFO using "family literacy" produced 117 hits, and when either "prison" or "incarcerat*" were added, the search resulted in no hits.
In addition to the studies found through the ERIC and PsycINFO datatbases, I referenced six major publications: (a) The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy Annotated Bibliography (Askov et al., 2005); (b) Family Literacy - Who Benefits? (Padak & Rasinski, 2003); (c) Children of Incarcerated Parents: The Implications of Parent Absence for Children's Lives at School and Home (Gadsden et al., 2005); (d) Bringing Family Literacy to Incarcerated Settings: An Instructional Guide (Hudson River Center, 2001); (e) Life on the Outside, The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett, (Gonnerman, 2004); and (f) All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated, (Bernstein, 2005). Lastly, I consulted a number of U.S.-based centers that provide support for incarcerated parents and their children, including: the Family and Corrections Network, the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents, the Urban Institute, and Motheread.
In the following sections, findings from the literature review are presented. First, broad themes that pertain to family literacy are discussed in terms of their relevance to prison-based programs. Then findings specific to prison-based programs are presented.