Literacy Partnerships for Families of ELs

I’d like you to meet guest blogger, Kathy Perret, who is an educational consultant for Northwest AEA in Sioux City, Iowa. Her areas of interest include literacy, ESL, instructional coaching, and teacher leadership. I met Kathy on Twitter and her ideas on family literacy partnerships seemed ideal for families of English learners (ELs). Here is Kathy’s blog.

“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 these benefits and more.  Yet, in today’s busy households many things get in the way of this simple activity—long working hours, commutes, technology, sporting events, lack of books in the home, etc.

Schools play a vital role in partnering with families and reassuring them that parents 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 phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, or vocabulary. We can build awareness, briefly share the benefits, and empower families with ways they can begin 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 needed to promote reading in their homes. This is especially important for parents of ELs who don’t feel confident about reading with their children in English. Start planning one now to celebrate World Read Aloud Day on 16 February 2017!

These evenings do not need to be elaborate. Developing a simple agenda allows schools to develop a powerful evening in a limited amount of time. In the ClassFlow Marketplace, you can find sample agenda that you can adapt to a variety of contexts and two sets of bookmarks that you can use during the evening event. The bookmarks are provided in both English and Spanish. You can ask parents from other language groups to design a bookmark using their home language.

Here is the agenda:
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 at home to and with their children.
4. Teach parent a simple technique they can use at home. Download two sets of bookmarks from ClassFlow. (You will need to join Classflow.) One set is for Grade K–2 students and one is for Grade 3–5 students. The bookmarks 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 home language. In subsequent evenings, you can change this activity.
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, and 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 their child.

Take-Home Libraries

Take-home libraries are collections of books intended for students to take home each evening and return to school. Making books available is especially important for English learners, who may not have books in English in their homes. Primary students may take home a different book each day. Intermediate students could keep their books for a little longer because intermediate books are typically longer. Setting up a school-wide system helps a take-home library program run smoothly. 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.

Books can be gathered from a wide variety of places. Many educators use book club bonus points, search secondhand 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, teachers can 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.

Parent Book Clubs or Parent-Student Book Clubs

To promote more reading in the home, schools can partner with parents to develop a love of reading. Parents who embrace reading will likely pass that love on to their children. Parent book clubs can be held during the school day; parent-student book clubs could be held after school or in the evenings.

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 it. The book chosen would be one that both parents and students read, then parents and students could meet to discuss it in small groups.

Virtual technology applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, or could be employed to develop online book clubs, or a school Facebook page could be used as a forum to discuss books.

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

Kathy Perret is an educational consultant for Northwest AEA in Sioux City, Iowa. Her focus areas include literacy, ESL, instructional coaching and teacher leadership. She is also a private consultant providing instructional coaching workshops and virtual coaching for instructional coaches. She is also a ClassFlow Ambassador. She co-moderates the weekly Twitter chat, #educoach and will have her first co-authored book, The Coach Approach to School Leadership: Leading Teachers to Higher Levels of Effectiveness, published by ASCD this spring. You can find her on Twitter at @KathyPerret or visit her website.


About Judie Haynes

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes taught elementary ESL for 28 years and is the author and coauthor of eight books for teachers of ELs , the most recent being “Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress“ with Debbie Zacarian and Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz. She was a columnist for the TESOL publication "Essential Teacher" and is also cofounder and comoderator of the Twitter Chat for teachers of English learners #ELLCHAT.
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2 Responses to Literacy Partnerships for Families of ELs

  1. Juliet says:

    I really enjoyed this list of suggestions for promoting family literacy. I don’t really have a suggestion, but I do have a question. If these are families of ELs, it’s safe to assume that they more than likely are ELs themselves. If that’s the case, then it’s great that we are trying to promote literacy among the family of ELs. Only thing though, if the parents are ELs as well, how do we ensure that they are at a comfortable level of reading English and feel comfortable enough to read with their children?

  2. Porfavor, evite la comida para antes o despues de la lectura. Es mejor solo mucha agua porque los chiquillos se ponenn muy hiperactivos y no te hacen caso. Bueno, yo se que es que la comida de los hispanos es mucho almidon y esto se hace azucar y los pone muy activos. Es mejor recomendarles que deben comer en esta misma actividad que tu describes aqui o solamente no comer solamente agua. Yo tengo siempre en mis aulas mas de 150 participantes adolecentes entre los 7-8 grupos que me tocan en el periodo escolar. Pero, yo te digo esto porque en la casa las mama y los papa no pueden con los chiquillos y no logran ponerlos a trabajar sus deberes escolares y menos noches o ratos de lectura. Yo estoy segura que es la nutricion y la comida que se meten como dicen los mismos y mismas chiquillos y chiquillas.
    Yo no puedo leerles nada en salon porque no estan quietos o quietas en el aula. Si mando a alguien a leer es lo mismo. Y, si yo los pongo a lectura comprensiva y silenciosa. No me contestan las preguntas orales ni en grupo ni individual. Solamente, mis participantes quieren que yo les ponga la respuesta en el tablero para ellos y ellas copiarla en el tablero nuevamente, del tablero al cuaderno o a la hoja de trabajo. Han llegado a sacar la foto en Androids para copiar la respuesta en casa o copiar la respuesta en del Android al cuaderno en el salon sentados en sus puestos. Pero, mis participantes se acercan al tablero a tomar la foto. O, cuando yo estoy de espaldas o a un lado sacan la foto.Mis participantes no estan leyendo y es la comida.

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