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 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 Appear.in 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.