Our schools are filled with students from diverse backgrounds. Their parents’ education levels are also varied. As educators, we always hope that our students’ growth will continue once the bell rings and they leave campus, but the reality is that many students won’t be engaged in reading or writing beyond the required homework. Research shows that exposure to reading and writing in the home, despite a parents lack of education, can positively impact literacy and numeracy for children.
1. Get books into the home
Did you know that students who have as few as 20 books in the home can help students succeed and can increase their likelihood of moving forward with higher education? Regardless of social status, income or parents’ education, having access to books and other reading materials in the home is vital to unlocking opportunities and growth for children.
Don’t let books sit in school storage rooms and classroom shelves to collect dust! Get extra books into the hands of students to take home to create a home library.
Help students select appropriate books from the library and encourage them to share their love of reading with their families.
2. Go beyond “read 30 minutes at home”
While the intent of encouraging 30 minutes of reading in the evenings is great, it often misses the mark. As a parent, I know there were days my kids would say, “I read,” and I signed off without knowing if they actually read or not. I would venture a guess that many parents have done this and some just initial or sign without taking a few minutes to read with or to their child.
If you’re sending home an appropriate level reader with your students, also send home questions for the parents to ask or activities that parents or other family members can do with the student.
Encourage families to get their students involved in cooking and other activities that showcase the importance of reading.
3. Host a Family Literacy Night
Many schools host a family literacy night at least once a year. The kids love bringing their families to school on these special nights when teachers and other “celebrities” read books to them. These nights are also a great opportunity to provide reading activities that help parents learn ways to interact with their children to support alphabet knowledge, storytelling and so many other skills.
Check for resources in your local area for organizations who will bring literacy activities to your campus. Many children’s museums have literacy outreach programs that provide wonderful resources and they often have activities in both English and Spanish.
4. Share tips and reading strategies with parents
Use your weekly communications to share a tip or reading strategy with parents. Highlight a book your students read that week and share questions parents might ask their child to further engage student discussion. If your students are older, have them create a newsletter to share reviews of the books they’ve been reading. This way, parents connect with what students are reading, and they can have meaningful conversations about literature.
I always remember one of my instructors saying that children become readers in the laps of their parents. It’s important for us to support and encourage families to ensure children have rich and varied reading experiences.
What is your campus doing to celebrate Family Literacy Month? We’d love to hear your ideas.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.