Building a Literacy-Rich Environment at Home: 5 Ways to Partner with Families
Literacy educators know how important reading and writing will be in every aspect of their students’ lives. Beyond reading for pleasure or writing for personal expression, literacy is crucial for communicating important information, connecting over shared interests, and collaborating on group projects. However, while educators can demonstrate the importance of reading and writing in the academic world, it’s often a student’s home life that shows them how relevant literacy will be in other ways. Family members tend to be the ones to demonstrate how reading and writing is used for fun, for work, and in daily life, and educators can support families by helping them create literacy-rich environments at home. Here are five ideas to get started:
1. Think of work products as “at-home literacy materials.”
There’s one thing students will always want to take home and show their families: their own hard work! While all student work products can be a great source of pride, some can be used at home to create more opportunities for learning. For example, instead of creating a simple vocabulary list, educators can help students write and illustrate a storybook that uses all of their vocabulary words. Reading these books with their families will give students the chance to practice reading and talk about what they’ve learned with the people they love.
2. Turn school newsletters into take-home phonics and literacy activities.
Many educators send out a monthly (or even weekly) newsletter explaining the current unit, upcoming special events, and school holidays. Why not add something for students? For example, educators can include a special message asking students to use their decoding skills to sound out the name of an upcoming guest speaker. Involving students in reading the school newsletter demonstrates how the adults in their lives use reading skills to learn important information.
3. Enrich the classroom “lending library” with a wide variety of resources.
School and classroom libraries often focus on books that match an expected reading level, address unit topics, and have an educational focus. In addition to these traditional libraries, educators can create classroom lending libraries that encompass all types of reading material and a variety of interests. These special collections may include magazines, comic books, and books for all ages—even board books or chapter books. Stocking the library with materials that cover a range of reading levels and topics encourages students to borrow books that might appeal to an older or younger sibling, a parent, a neighbor, or a friend, and sharing special reading time with a loved one at home shows students that reading is fun in all areas of life.
4. Use face-to-face time to introduce literacy and phonics games for the whole family.
Although educators and families may be committed to working together to improve student literacy, their opportunities for face-to-face interaction might be limited to a few meetings or conferences. Educators can capitalize on these collaborative opportunities by encouraging parents to bring their children to meetings. Including the whole family in conferences gives educators a chance to demonstrate literacy and phonics games that would be easy to replicate at home. For example, students might like to show their parents and siblings how to sing a fun rhyming song such as “Down by the Bay.” Educators can then take the opportunity to explain how singing silly songs together helps children build rhyming skills.
5. Work together to create literacy materials for home and school.
Creating the materials for a literacy-rich environment can be time-consuming, but it’s also an area in which educators and parents can help each other. Parents who aren’t able to contribute to the classroom by attending events during the workday might welcome a volunteer opportunity in their off-hours. For instance, if educators can send home printouts and directions, parent volunteers can color, cut out, and create the materials and send them back to school. Such extra help makes it possible to create multiple sets of the same literacy games and activities: one set for use at school and others for students to borrow for use at home.
Long after they leave the classroom, students will be using their reading skills to communicate and connect with others. When educators and parents work together to increase literacy opportunities at home, students learn how instrumental reading skills will be in all areas of their lives.
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