4 Tips for Engaging Caregivers in Literacy

Establishing a strong partnership between the schools and families can help ensure students have as much support as they need.  

Written By jwright

On November 15, 2022

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As the effects of the recent global pandemic on students become clearer, it is evident that our students are struggling to read. The most recent NAEP results (2022) showed a significant decrease in the average reading score at both fourth and eighth grade levels, compared to 2019. At fourth grade, the average reading score was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005 and was not significantly different in comparison to 1992. (Source: https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2022/)

While schools are working hard to overcome these profound set-backs, there is much to be done and recovery (including getting better than where we were pre-pandemic) is going to require much more time and effort than what schools alone can do. Establishing a strong partnership between the schools and families can help ensure students have as much support as they need.  

How can educators and caregivers work in tandem to support student literacy? Here are four tips for engaging caregivers in literacy practices at home: 

Tip #1:

Help make books accessible at home. “Data from the NAEP show that students who report having more books in their homes performed better academically. Specifically, while less than 15 percent of students with between 0 and 10 books scored proficient in 2015, 50 percent of students with more than 100 books did. The data and research are clear – children who have access to print reading materials have better literacy outcomes.” (source: https://www2.ed.gov/datastory/bookaccess/index.html)The latest research on home libraries showed that “Sixty-one percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. While low-income children have, on average, four children’s books in their homes, a team of researchers concluded that nearly two-thirds of the low-income families they studied owned no books for their children.” (US Dept. of Education, 1996)

There are a few great resources out there for printable books that you can send home, without the worry of them getting lost or damaged: 

Loving2Read provides FREE printable books for readers of all levels while Scholastic and Reading A-Z also provide printable readers with a paid subscription. Preparing a library in your classroom full of take-home books of a variety of reading levels and topics of interest can be a key in ensuring your students have access to books after the school day.

Tip #2:

Not only do we need to make books accessible, we need to support caregivers in having academic conversations and engaging in fun activities at home with their child about books.

“When parents and teachers properly plan and execute dialogic reading (an adult and child have a dialogue around the text they are reading), research suggests it can be particularly effective at improving skills such as print awareness, oral language, and comprehension. Most importantly, it helps model how good readers think about the text as they are reading it. The benefits of dialogic reading are not just for young children. Although the concept originated with picture book reading for preschoolers (Whitehurst et al., 1988), a wide body of research has extended its use to other ages and populations including students with disabilities (What Works Clearinghouse, 2010), struggling readers (Swanson et al., 2011), and English language learners (Brannon & Dauksas, 2014).” (Source: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/dialogic-reading-having-conversation-about-books )

You can send home these FREE printable bookmarks: Conversation Starters for Families and Book Activities for Families with your students. Caregivers can use these with any book they read with their child. 

Tip #3:

Consider offering informational sessions in which caregiverss can learn about the reading strategies you are using at school. Informational sessions can be offered in a variety of ways: 

  • family literacy nights at school
  • short video clips on Class Dojo or YouTube videos showing a strategy in action or being modeled
  • a section on the weekly newsletterIf your school is interested in being more systematic in creating a structure for teaching parents quality instructional practices, you might consider setting up an Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) model at your school. 

Do you have a diverse group of students and families with a primary language spoken at home that is not English? Teachers can sign up for a FREE account with Talking Points (https://talkingpts.org/) that will translate any message you send to parents into their home language.

Tip #4:

Share some of the latest and most exciting technology resources with your families such as Novel Effect. This program helps bring the magic of reading aloud to life by offering a library of interactive music and sound effects to enrich your regular storytime routine. There is a bounty of popular children’s books such as Goodnight Moon, The Snowy Day, and Grumpy Monkey available on this platform. 

Finally, an informative resource for those with children Kindergarten through 3rd grades, you might find this website very helpful as it offers grade-level vidoes and activities to support literacy at home.  https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/rel/Products/Resource/100679.

In what ways do you partner with families to support at-home literacy practices? We would love to hear from you and provide additional ideas that would be beneficial for others to share with their student families.