As we know, a child's first and most influential teacher is his/her parents. Parents are with the child during the most important formative years, and children learn from all of their family experiences socially, emotionally, and educationally. In fact, a child's ideas about education and its significance begins with the parents' ideals and modeling. Considering these points, it is so important that teachers and parents join forces with the child to help the child grow to his/her full potential.
Should Parents Teach Kids to Read?
According to literacy expert Timothy Shanahan, the answer is that it doesn't hurt. If you have young children at home, I would not advise a laborious daily reading lesson, but rather, make reading together a comfortable experience where you as a parent seize the teachable moments. This associates reading with the pleasure kids feel cuddling up with a parent. If a child is curious about words, modeling word meanings through conversations gives the child background for how a word is used, context, etc. If the child is curious what a word says, simply telling the word is okay, but even better is demonstrating how the sounds come together to form the word. Finally, as you read, pausing for discussion about the plot, ideas, pictures, or other text elements builds verbal skills as well as comprehension.
One of the best way to encourage reading during the holidays is to keep books in mind for gifts. My friend Emily at The Literacy Nest is doing 25 Books for Christmas. Now that may or may not work into your budget (but you can't go wrong with $1.00 books from Scholastic or my favorite store, Ollie's). Regardless of the number you choose, this is a great way to build a child's library.
How Can Parents Help When Time is Short?
Life is so busy for everyone, and when a choice has to be made on how time is spent, parents must choose meeting basic needs first. Where parents can work in educational activities, it is greatly appreciated and beneficial to the child. How do you get the time? Well, the best place to find the time is whenever you have to wait on something...at the doctor's office, at a restaurant, during car repairs, or even as you travel to and from places on errands. We call these times "reading emergencies" because kids are usually driving their parents crazy, and parents are on edge waiting too. If you are prepared for these "reading emergencies", then the time is used positively. If you stash things like letter or sightword cards and a few books in a bag to take with you, then you will always be prepared.
What Can Parents Do Other Than Read With Their Children?
One of the best things parents can do from birth is talk to them. Conversations about the environment, interesting observations of insects, community workers, procedures at restaurants, birds, or things like how mail is delivered builds the students' schema or memory for a topic which is important when new information is learned. Conversation also builds word knowledge and vocabulary. Never talk down to children. Instead, work into conversation words like sluggish or exhausted with context so that kids learn what the words mean and how they are used. Finally, conversations deepen understanding about material that is read. If you read a book to your child, talking about it during and after reading helps your child visualize the story and learn from the reading.
In addition to oral conversations, I highly recommend writing with your child in many forms. Keeping a dialogue journal where you can write notes back and forth to each other is lots of fun. For reading, journals can be very helpful for use after reading to record the big ideas from the text, and what would your family members say to a handwritten letter or card? Of course they'd love it, right? If you have a tech savvy kid, you might incorporate technology with MS Word or Google Docs to let your child type about their reading, a note to a friend, or maybe even birthday cards. If you are really techie, you might even consider a private blog about the books you read together.
What If I Show My Child the "Wrong" Way to Solve the Problem?Chances are you have probably already heard the dreaded "But that's not the way my teacher does it!" We all hear that (even teachers). The thing to keep in mind any time these words are spoken is, "Learning to do things in new and different ways is a great things because it helps you check your work and gives you a back up plan if you get stuck!" Imagine what it would be like to have chicken cooked only in ONE way. That would be boring, right? So, if this comes up, carry on and send in a note to let your child's teacher know. The classroom teacher may have a handout that he/she could share with you on how the child is learning at school. (This is especially true for math where we WANT kids to learn to think of new problem solving methods.).
With reading and other content areas, you might visit during your school's parental involvement nights to see how teachers model skills for their students. I know from the workshops I've conducted for parents, that this is the most beneficial part of the workshops. Parent like to see our teaching methods in action.
Where Can I Find Resources to Help Me at Home?
I created the poster to the left a while back, and it's been very well received. In fact, someone picked up the original tweet of a post I'd included it in, and it just went crazy. In it, you'll see a variety of ways you can help at school and how teachers can involve you in their classroom routines. I'd recommend printing a copy for at home and posting it on the side of your refrigerator just as a reminder. Teachers might share it outside the classroom door or place it in a prominent place as a reminder of how each parent can be involved.
Another resource I designed is this brochure. I created it for use with a parental involvement workshop I presented. It includes the reading stages of development, a list of what to expect at each stage and ideas of how parents can work on grade level skills. It includes stages from emergent to instructional, so parents can use it for children of all ages. It is free for the next week, and I hope you can use it.
Finally, [these handouts] by Primary Punch are just fantastic. There is a handout for every teaching point in literacy. I just love them. Included in the list are fluency strategies, choosing just right books, ten ways to build vocabulary, educational apps, decoding strategies, and more.
These five parental involvement tips are more than that, but they are only the beginning. There are so many ways parents can help their kids at home. These tips are aimed at academic needs, but we know that without meeting a child's emotional needs or physical needs, the child can't be as receptive to the academics. We need the total package, and we teachers can not do our jobs to the extent needed alone. We have to work as a team, and if we do, we can promote long-term school success.
Parental Involvement Apps to Keep You Connected
This Thursday, over on the Classtag Blog, I am contributing to a post on parental involvement, but before writing up my piece, I took time to look over this exciting app option that many schools are using. It is intended to help connect with and communicate with parents. It is free, secure, and user friendly. I am very excited about trying it out, and the feedback I read was very positive. To learn more, [CLICK HERE].