Acquiring Literacy in English:
Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors

Parent Interview Response Sheet

Authors and Date

Diane August, Dorry Kenyon, Valerie Malabonga, and Silvia Caglarcan, Center for Applied Linguistics; Patton Tabors, formerly of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. 2002.


The Parent Interview Response Sheet (PIRS) was designed to collect a core of demographic and home language and literacy data by eliciting information about the home environments of Spanish and English monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual elementary-age children. The PIRS was developed for use in the research studies that made up Acquiring Literacy in English: Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors and in related research projects.

Age or Grade of Subjects

The PIRS was developed for use with families that have children in elementary school.


The PIRS is a 60-item questionnaire that has three sections, one each for the child, the mother, and the father. The items in each section fall into four main categories: background information, home language use, home literacy practices, and educational level. The PIRS also solicits the following information about the parents or guardians: birthplace, ethnicity, relationship to child, employment status, and socioeconomic status. Parents read close-ended questions and mark one of the choices. The PIRS is available in English and Spanish.


Background information question

In what country (or U.S. territory) was this child born?

Home language use question

What language does your child use when she/he speaks to her/his mother at home?

Home literacy practices question

How often does an adult/older sibling help your child with learning (e.g., numbers, letters, words) or homework in English?

Educational level question

What is the highest grade or year of school the mother has completed?


The PIRS is an adaptable measure that can be administered using various methods, including group administration, home interview, phone interview, and mailing out the questionnaires. In practice, researchers have found all of these approaches satisfactory in obtaining the PIRS data. In interviews, the English PIRS is administered by a native English speaker and the Spanish PIRS is administered by a native Spanish speaker. The PIRS takes from 30 minutes to 1 hour to answer or administer.

Reliability and Validity

Researchers conducted a factor analysis on the PIRS items, and the items loaded on two factors: “Home Language” and “Parental Help.”  The reliability coefficients were as follows:

Home Language:        α = .93
Parental Help              α = .68

Researchers investigated the relationship of the PIRS scales and variables to children’s scores on the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery-Revised (WLPB-R) Letter-Word Identification and Picture Vocabulary subtests. PIRS variables investigated were Home Language (HL), Parental Help (PH), Parent Education (PE), Parent Income (PI), Parent Reading (PR), and Books in the Home (BH). Table 1 presents the results (n=577).

Table 1. Correlation of PIRS variables with WLPB-R Standard Scores

WLPB-R Subtest

PIRS Variable








Letter-Word Identification







Picture Vocabulary







** Correlation significant at the .01 level (2-tailed)
Note: HL was coded with low numbers indicating more Spanish and higher number indicating more English. PH was defined so that lower numbers indicated more frequent help.


The researchers consulted the following in the development of the PIRS:

Caldwell, B., & Bradley, R.H. (1984). Home observation for measurement of the environment. Little Rock: University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

National Center for Education Statistics. (1998). Characteristics of children’s early care and education programs: Data from the 1995 National Household Education Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics (Also available at


The PIRS is not available for use by researchers outside the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Return to the list of researcher-developed assessments.