Parents can support their child’s literacy development in a variety of ways. Parent involvement can be classified in at least three categories: school-based involvement, home-school conferencing, and home-based involvement.
The FIRST type of parental involvement is school-based involvement, which includes various parental activities and behaviors occurring in their children’s school environment. Some examples of school-based involvement activities include:
- volunteering in the classroom,
- acting as a chaperone for class field trips,
- participating in fundraising activities in the school, or
- planning classroom activities with teachers.
The SECOND type of parental involvement is home-school conferencing, which involves communication between parents and teachers or other school staff regarding children’s academic achievement, enjoyment of school, and rate of progress. Some examples of home-school conferencing activities include:
- talking to a teacher about a child’s areas of strength or weakness in school,
- attending parent-teacher conferences to discuss a child’s progress and performance,
- scheduling meetings with school administrators in order to solve problems or to learn more about what is occurring in school, or
- talking with a child’s teachers about classroom rules and daily class routines.
The THIRD type of parental involvement is home-based involvement, which involves parents actively encouraging children to engage in learning in the home setting and providing learning opportunities for their children. Some examples of home-based involvement include:
- reviewing a child’s homework,
- spending time working with a child on number skills or reading and writing skills,
- bringing home learning materials such as books or educational videos for a child, or
- talking to a child about the parent’s love for learning.
We want to focus on parent-child activities occurring at home that aim at improving children’s literacy. One of the most studied parent-child activities that is assumed to promote early literacy is joint book reading. Indeed, the results of a meta-analytic review of 17 studies revealed an overall positive association between parents reading to their children and children’s emergent literacy or reading achievement, and a positive association between joint book reading and early literacy.
Parent involvement has a positive impact from kindergarten to grade 3, and we must inform and encourage parents at every opportunity. There is never not an opportunity to engage parents; we have to make it happen and create opportunities. In addition, the interventions are as effective for children experiencing reading difficulties as for normally-developing children. Furthermore, the socioeconomic level of families won’t affect the positive impact of any of these three parental involvement activities and educator interventions.
Therefore, we must conclude that parents can help their children learn to read. The effectiveness of parents’ help, however, varies according to the type of parent-child activities. When deciding to implement outreach strategies or suggest activities to parents that support literacy development, educators should be mindful of present adult capacity, and resources readily available at home.
It is highly advisable that not only do we suggest visiting libraries for accessing reading materials, but we can create a lending library for parents at school, as well as offering the traditional hand-outs consisting of ‘run-offs’, workbooks, worksheets, etc…. . It worked for me, as a 6-8th grade classroom teacher in a school in which I was given no uniform textbooks to support instruction for the bulk of an entire school year. If your school has limited resources, and you are rendered unable to provide books for every family, there still are other options to support parental involvement.
Every school has copiers, and at least one copier is high-speed, prints in color and makes double-sided copies also. Simply use favorite, content rich, level appropriate books and print copies to issue to parents for home use. This re-print is usually permissible without violating any copyright laws, because the sale and hardcovers will be absent. We want the content, not the credit for authoring, or publishing profits. Try to print one chapter from a book, or even 2-3 pages of a chapter that parents can read jointly with their child or read to their child at home. Strategies of this sort can be implemented in a variety of ways with multiple benefits. Parents are spending quality time with their child. They are strengthening their own literacy.
Additionally, an established routine can be suggested for bedtime or other regularly scheduled free time at home. When the content is high interest, children’s segment intensifies the mystery and anticipation of what comes next, thus cultivating a love for reading, too. Remember, the books aren’t issued textbooks, but high interest supplemental reading materials diversely representative of character, culture and content, and less than 30 pages long. If excerpts of books, then depending on proficiency, 3-5 pages should be enough, and it won’t be an assignment-just interesting journeys into reading.
All that is needed is reams of printer paper and a printer/copier. We are supporting families, supporting students’ literacy, and encouraging a love of reading at home, school, and in life. Ultimately, we are supporting teachers, too. Better readers help eliminate the need for remediation at the numbers we now see teachers providing to students in school ….and much of that work centers on reading skills anyway. Parent-child activities in reading together can become a standard in every household across economic circumstances, and parents feel more involved and connected to learning as partners in the school community. Everyone wins!