Our schools are vibrant melting pots of students from diverse backgrounds, each with unique stories and varied parental education levels. As educators, our aspiration is that the intellectual flame ignited within our students during school hours continues to glow long after the bell rings. However, the reality is that many students may not actively engage in reading or writing beyond the confines of required homework. Research consistently demonstrates that exposure to reading and writing at home, irrespective of parental education levels, significantly enhances children’s literacy and numeracy skills.
1. Cultivate a home library
Did you know that having as few as 20 books at home can significantly contribute to a student’s success and increase their likelihood of pursuing higher education? Regardless of social status, income, or parental education, providing access to books and reading materials in the home is essential for unlocking opportunities and fostering growth in children.
Don’t let books languish in school storage rooms and classroom shelves, gathering dust! Instead, ensure that surplus books find their way into the hands of students, creating a personal home library. Assist students in selecting appropriate books from the school library and encourage them to share their love of reading with their families.
2. Transcend the “read 30 minutes at home” routine
While the intent behind encouraging 30 minutes of evening reading is commendable, it often falls short in practice. As a parent myself, there were days when my children would claim, “I read,” and I would sign off without verifying their engagement. I suspect many parents have had similar experiences, some hastily initialing or signing without taking a few moments to read with or to their child.
To enhance this practice, accompany appropriate level readers with questions or engaging activities for parents to undertake with their children. Encourage families to involve their students in activities like cooking that highlight the importance of reading beyond the pages of a book.
3. Host a Family Literacy Night
Many schools host an annual family literacy night, a special occasion where students delight in bringing their families to school. During these memorable events, teachers and even “celebrities” take turns reading books to the children. These nights provide an excellent opportunity to introduce reading activities that empower parents to support alphabet knowledge, storytelling, and a myriad of other skills.
Explore local resources for organizations that can bring literacy activities to your campus. Children’s museums often have literacy outreach programs with activities available in both English and Spanish.
4. Empower parents with tips and strategies
Utilize your weekly communications to share valuable tips and reading strategies with parents. Showcase a book that your students explored during the week and suggest questions parents can pose to their children to deepen the discussion. For older students, encourage them to create a newsletter sharing reviews of the books they’ve read. This not only keeps parents informed about their children’s reading choices but also facilitates meaningful conversations about literature at home.
I fondly recall one of my instructors emphasizing that children become readers in the laps of their parents. It is our duty to support and inspire families, ensuring that children encounter diverse and enriching reading experiences.
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.