Posted on 03/20/2017 at 07:35 AM by Liz Determan

The following post, by Kathy Perret (NWAEA Consultant) also appeared on the TESOL International Association’s Blog in January 2017.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”  Emilie Buchwald

What if we could offer parents a FREE way to help stimulate their child’s imagination and increase their understanding of the world around them? What if this FREE activity could also help them build their vocabulary and language skills as well as do better in school. Most importantly, what if this FREE activity built precious memories and a lasting bond between parent and child.

Sound too good to be true? Of course not. The simple act of reading with and to a child has been shown to yield all of the above benefits and more. Yet, in today’s busy households many things get in the way of this simple activity – long working hours, commutes, electronical devices, sporting events, and lack of books in the home to name a few.

Schools play a vital role in partnering with families and reassuring them they are their child’s first teacher. As educators we can provide families with simple ideas to bring the love of reading into their homes. The activities do not need to be elaborate or “school like.” We do not need to use educational jargon like phonic, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension or vocabulary. We can build awareness, briefly share the benefits and empower families with ways they can embed reading to and with their children at home.

Here are three ideas that can build family literacy partnerships.

Family Literacy Nights

Family literacy nights build school-home partnerships. They allow educators to reassure parents that they are indeed their child’s first teacher. They can provide parents with the skills need to promote reading in their homes.  

These evenings do not need elaborate. Developing a simple agenda that can be used with a wide variety of situations allows schools to develop a powerful evening in a limited amount of time. One such agenda can be found in the here which includes a sample agenda that can be adapted to a variety of contexts and two sets of bookmarks that can be used during the evening event. The bookmarks are provided in both English and Spanish.

The simple agenda includes:

  1. Gather families together for a meal. (optional)
  2. Once meal is over take children to classrooms to engage in some type of literacy activity. This activity can change each time you hold the event. 
  3. Meet with parents to share the benefits of reading to and with their children at home.
  4. Teach parent a simple technique they can use at home. This set of materials includes two sets of bookmarks. One for K-2 students and one for 3-5 students. The bookmarks are can be printed with the English directions on one side and the Spanish directions on the other. Encourage parents to read with and to their child in their first language stressing the importance of keeping their first language. In subsequent evenings, this activity can change.
  5. When children are ready to return to parents, have them pick out a book. The book could be from a classroom library or one provided that they can keep at home. Educators can find grants, organizations that provide free books or area businesses to supply books for students to keep as their own at home.
  6. Have parents/guardians practice the technique shared with their child.
  7. Thank families for coming. Encourage them to read with and to your child.

Take Home Libraries

Take home libraries are collections of books intended for students to take home each evening and return to school. Primary students may take home a different book each day. Intermediate students could keep books for a little longer period of time, since books are typically longer. Setting up a school wide system helps a take home library program run smoothly.

Books can be gathered from a wide variety of places. Many educators use book club bonus points, search second hand stores or garage sales, write grants, ask families for donations and search their own homes for books that their own children or grandchildren have outgrown. As books are gathered divide them up into separate bins for each classroom. For a classroom of 25 students you could collect 30-40 books to allow for some choice.

Once bins are ready distribute one to each classroom and explain your take home library process. Students can choose a book to take home at the end of the day and return the next day (or so depending on grade level). Classrooms can keep the bin for a month (or other predetermined amount of time) and then rotate with other classrooms at the same grade level. This rotation allows for even more book choice.

Parent Book Clubs or Parent-Student Book Clubs

To promote more reading in the home, schools can also develop the love of reading within parents. Parents who embrace reading will likely pass that love on to their children.  Parent book clubs can be held during the school day or parent-student book clubs could be held after school or in the evenings. Virtual technology applications like Skype, Google Hangout or could be used to develop online book clubs or a school Facebook page could be used as a forum to discuss books.

Parent book clubs can be facilitated by school staff members or groups of parents. The adults can be encouraged to choose a common book and meet at school or some other location to discuss book. Parent-Student Book Clubs could be held after school or in the evening. The book chosen would be one that both parents and students read and join together to discuss in small groups.

We would to hear ways you promote family literacy partnerships. Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

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