This paper identifies and compares the learning experiences of parents and carers in a range of family literacy programs in low income areas and designed for families of children aged 0-8 years. The paper focuses on three family literacy programs developed with two goals: first to encourage parents' involvement in their children's education and second for parents to aspire to participate in forms of higher education. The three family literacy programs were designed to offer another opportunity for early school leavers to reconnect with schools and learning in positive ways around their young children's literacy experiences as for some parents relearning with their children may generate positive relationships between schools and reading. The three innovative approaches to family literacy are the: Dads' program in a children's centre, Lap-Sit, an out-reach program from a public library and OLA, a play based early years of school program targeting children's oral language and comprehension. Student teachers from the university participated in the three family literacy programs and were involved in conducting, documenting and analysing the programs. This paper will describe the programs and then analyse the different family literacy programs by employing a multi-categorical framework to explore the different learning experiences of parents and carers. The analysis explores the issues the programs addressed and the program goals, the pedagogy, resources used, partnerships and the forms of literacy practices within the diverse family literacy programs. The paper stresses the importance of playfulness and home school connections in family literacy programs.