Empowering parents to support reading opens endless possibilities for children
When a child makes the leap from reading because their teacher tells them they must, to reading for pleasure, they have picked up a good habit for a lifetime. True, not everybody is a great reader, and we all have our own unique skills to offer the world, but anybody’s reading can improve with time and patience. This is especially true for children who have the advantage of minds that are keen to learn and absorb information. That’s why helping children to keep gaining confidence in their reading, whatever their natural ability, is so fundamental and it is best achieved when the duty is shared by homes and schools.
Having parents on board matters
We orient ourselves in the world through the words we read, gaining understanding of multiple subjects and a sense of how things work. We enrich our lives with stories and information, and where we share our knowledge and passions, we enrich those of others too. But to get there, we must become good and confident readers. That takes practice, and this is where it’s vital for teachers to look for support from the other primary educators of children – parents.
Parentkind’s mission is to bring homes and schools closer together, and for education to be a positive partnership between parents and teachers. The research in parental participation backs up the importance of our aims and proves that parents have a positive impact on children’s education. Their influence isn’t merely in academic attainment, but also in reinforcing good behaviour and ensuring youngsters have as happy and fulfilling a school experience as possible.
Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools
All parents want the best for their children, but family circumstances vary, and for a huge variety of reasons, some parents will play a larger role in their child’s learning than others. As teachers, you appreciate that you’ll get to know some parents better than others. Putting across what can seem like a simple message to all parents can be tricky, and limited results may be dispiriting for teachers, which is why it’s so crucial to communicate well with the whole parent community. Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools can help any school map best practice for parental participation onto their existing strategy, and a self-assessment tool helps to monitor strengths and weaknesses and improve results. The Blueprint consists of five drivers, one of which is supporting learning at home. That’s where encouraging parents to support with reading comes in.
Motivating parents to want to support their child in the home-learning environment, where they can confidently complement the efforts of teachers is crucial. Parents need to be aware of the difference that they can make, even in talking positively about education at home, and how schools can support those parents who may be lacking in confidence.
Not every household will have a large collection of books, or the space to store them. Libraries, including pop-up and mobile ones, are a cost-effective alternative. Children generally enjoy the experience of visiting them, choosing a title and taking it away with them. Teachers can set this in motion by encouraging the class to take a trip to a local library. If they are enjoyed enough, those family trips can become habitual too.
Keeping parents in the loop
If you have a sense that pupils are disengaged from the reading they have been set, a conversation with their parents about what kind of stories they like may help to lead the child in the direction of books that might appeal to them on one of the school’s bookcases. Conversely, if you know that a child has enjoyed reading a particular story, then suggest they tell a parent about it once they get home. That way they have to remember the key plot points and characters and articulate them verbally later, which helps with the development of all-important oracy skills and provides them with the enthusiasm to seek out further stories they might enjoy. Not only that, but they get to impress their parents too!
There are many ways for teachers to provide children with the gift of a passion for reading. With parents on board, you have a key ally in reinforcing your messages and nurturing children’s interest in reading outside of school hours. It’s human nature to love hearing and telling stories, but the vital skill of reading influences almost everything we do for the rest of our lives. Supporting parents in developing children’s reading can ultimately make a big difference to that child’s outcomes and life chances. The ripple effect from teachers’ small suggestions can be profound.