Literacy Activities at Home
Many parent-involvement programs focus on preschoolers, but parents continue to play an important role in supporting their children’s reading and writing development through elementary and high school. Parents implement home-literacy activities as well as support their children’s in-school literacy development through activities such as these:
- Reading aloud to children
- Listening to children read aloud and reading along with them
- Making time for children to read books independently a priority
- Providing books and other reading materials in the home
- Talking with children about books they’re reading
- Asking children what they’re learning at school
- Providing the materials and opportunities for children to write at home
- Taking children to the library to check out books and multimedia materials
- Giving books and magazine subscriptions as gifts
- Monitoring children as they complete homework assignments
- Emphasizing the value of literacy and the importance of school success
Teachers who work with older students expand parent–teacher partnerships by showing parents how to talk with their children about books they’re reading, respond to their writing, and monitor their completion of homework assignments.
Teachers have developed a variety of innovative home-literacy activities for K–8 students that involve opportunities for parents and their children to read and write together. Here’s a list of seven recommended activities:
- Interactive Read-Alouds. Teachers not only encourage parents to read aloud to their children every day, but they also demonstrate how to read aloud effectively using interactive read-alouds (Enz, 2003). They teach parents how to choose appropriate books and use techniques to boost their children’s engagement with the book, such as making predictions, asking questions, and talking about illustrations. Teachers also explain the benefit of rereading books and suggest that parents promote children’s response after reading through role-playing, using puppets to retell the story, drawing pictures, and other activities.
- Traveling Book Bags. Teachers put together traveling bags of books that beginning readers take home to read with their parents (Vukelich, Christie, & Enz, 2001). For each bag, they collect three or four books, usually on a single topic; a stuffed animal, puppet, or artifact; and a response journal. If parents have low-level literacy or don’t speak English, teachers also include cassette-tape recordings of the books and a small tape player so that the whole family can enjoy the books. Children take the book bags home and spend a week reading and talking about the books and writing responses in the journal. Then they exchange the book bags for new ones. Teachers who work with older students make more sophisticated book bags, loaded with maps, brochures, charts and diagrams, magazines, lists of related website addresses, and books related to a thematic unit, for students to take home and explore.
- Family Book Clubs. Parents and their children read and discuss books together, and sometimes they invite other families to join the book club. Parents and children choose a book that interests them (and is appropriate for the children’s age and reading level) that everyone will read and discuss. After parents and children finish reading, everyone gets together to talk about the book. This activity, based on the book club popularized in The Mother-Daughter Book Club: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh, and Learn Through Their Love of Reading (Dodson, 2007), is a great way for parents to foster their children’s love of reading.
- Online Reading and Writing. Computers are rapidly becoming part of everyday life, and parents and children can use computers together to search the Internet for information, read articles posted on websites, play literacy games, and use e-mail and instant messaging to stay in touch with relatives and friends (Rasinski & Padak, 2008).
- Family Journals. Children and their parents write back and forth in special family journals (Wollman-Bonilla, 2000). At school, children write entries, explaining what’s going on in their classroom and what they’re learning, and then they take their journals home to share with their parents. Next, parents write back, commenting on children’s entries, asking questions, and offering praise and encouragement.
- Family Reading/Writing Nights. Parents and their children come to school for a special evening of reading or writing books together (Hutchins, Greenfeld, & Epstein, 2008). Individual teachers, a grade-level group of teachers, or an entire school can organize these programs. At a family reading night, children and parents read books together and participate in reading-related presentations and activities. Sometimes children dress up as book characters, perform a readers theatre script, or give book talks about favorite books. Teachers also give away books that children add to their home library. At a family writing night, children and parents write books together, usually about family events. Teachers also have opportunities at these events to share tips with parents about ways to support their children’s literacy development.
- Family Literacy Portfolios. Parents save samples of their children’s reading and writing and collect them in large folders or portfolios, and then they share the portfolios with teachers during parent–teacher conferences (Krol-Sinclair, Hindin, Emig, & McClure, 2003). Samples of children’s reading and writing can include drawings with captions, notes, stories and poems, handmade birthday cards, craft projects, lists of books read, and photocopies of the covers of favorite books. Parents also include observation notes about the ways their children use literacy. When parents bring portfolios to parent–teacher conferences, they assume a more active role in talking about their children’s literacy development, and teachers gain valuable insights about their students’ home-literacy activities.
These home-literacy activities are effective because teachers set specific goals, provide clear directions, and value parents’ collaboration.
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