Early literacy gets a big boost when you involve parents.
School librarians are most widely known for being teachers. As such, it is a natural extension for the school librarian to provide high quality parental engagement workshops that establish early literacy reading habits. Closely examining what public libraries have always done, school librarians can replicate best practices in order to foster literature appreciation, an early literacy foundation, and trans-literacy skills.
There is no longer a typical American family. The dynamics of the American family have changed, and it is not unusual to see families headed by same sex unions, teenage parents, single moms, immigrants, or to have incarcerated parents, or blended families. With the changing structure and evolution of the American family, home life has become more multifaceted and complex. Parents often have “Warren Buffett” dreams for their children, but are unsure of how to achieve them. In struggling to make a living, parents often fail to realize that literacy begins many years before school starts and should start in the homes.
By establishing monthly early literacy workshops for parents, the school librarian can teach parents how they can be their children’s first teacher. Partly by spending quality time reading to their youngsters, parents can develop a rapport and instill a love and appreciation for books at an early age. School book rooms often have an excess of books that can be used as attendance incentives at each workshop. Check with your administrator to use these resources. If there are none available, plan in advance by writing a proposal on Donors Choose or writing to Scholastic soliciting donations. These books are intended to build the home library so that children can later appreciate good books and read and reread at their own leisure.
At these workshops, parents enjoy learning various ways they can promote literacy in everyday tasks like reading environmental signage, reading food labels, creating grocery lists, bonding with offspring over shared recipes and cooking, to carrying book baggies for reading during wait times at the doctor’s office. Promoting early literacy is more than just sharing a book together at bedtime. It’s about creating habits through a family’s everyday routines to keep kids enjoyably immersed in text as a shared family activity.
As information specialists, school librarians have technical expertise. Many parents, particularly in urban environments and low socio-economic neighborhoods, are in need of technology workshops. The school library media center is the perfect place to conduct parental workshops about internet safety, accessing educational sites, and free e-books. Additional parental workshops that are beneficial include teaching online navigation, evaluation and search techniques, as well as financial literacy and resume building/interview classes. By partnering with parents through the school library media center, school librarians are empowering families and building students’ support systems. Strengthening families ultimately trickles down to make stronger, more knowledgeable students.
In summary, as educators that cater to the entire learning community, school librarians are poised to foster greater student learning and outcomes by reaching out to families and creating a love for literacy. Creating parent outreach pieces in new and innovative ways through the school library brings families into the fold. In this new educational age, school librarians are at the forefront of leading from the middle by creating partnerships and engaging families towards greater parental involvement. A strong home to school connection ultimately transfers into greater academic achievement and stronger social competence for students. Studies have proven that economically disadvantaged children make the greatest gains when involved parents are on board. All around, this translates into higher grades, higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and higher expectations for students. In addition, engaging families not only assists in bridging cultural gaps between home life and school, but also helps the school to be seen as a community resource. The most accurate predictor of a student’s academic success is determined by a home environment that fosters and encourages a love of literacy and learning. Partner with parents and success will follow for scholars and the school library. In essence, the saying “Families that read together, succeed together” holds a great deal of credence.
Tracey Wong is a School Library Information Technology Specialist. She is also a Microsoft Innovative Educator and a Graphite Certified Educator. She has over 14 years teaching experience with NYC DOE as an elementary teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, and a LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention) Specialist. She has five years teaching experience at the college level. Her work was featured in the UFT NY paper in the Sept. 2013 issue, and on ABC's Born to Explore series. Her digital portfolios can be viewed here or here. You can follow her blog here.