Fostering Language Development Through School-Home Connections
Parent involvement refers to the wide range of possible avenues for participation in the school classroom, from parents attending social events and informal parent–teacher conversations to facilitating learning at home to becoming involved in classroom learning activities. In contrast, parent programs involve more specific arrangements and detailed organization. In many instances, specific parent programs have a strong “parental education” component and may even be mandated by the particular early childhood program such as federal, state, or grant-funded programs (e.g., Head Start, Child–Parent Centers, or EvenStart—at-risk early childhood programs). Enrollment of children in these programs may require a specific level of involvement from their parents.
Successful programs have these characteristics in common:
- A range of clearly communicated and organized opportunities encourages parent participation and involvement. Early in the year, parents are given information on the ways in which they can become involved in their child’s classroom and the opportunities they will have to participate in social events and interactions with their child’s teacher and school.
- All levels of parent participation and involvement are valued. Parents are welcomed warmly and respectfully whether it be to attend an open house, parent conference, or potluck supper.
- Teachers are sensitive to parents’ needs and life situations. Special events for parents and families are scheduled to accommodate as much as possible their individual time constraints and life situations. Translators are arranged for parents lacking fluency in English. Younger children are welcomed or babysitting services are provided to facilitate parental participation or attendance at scheduled parent meetings or conferences.
- Teachers foster an atmosphere of mutual respect (Morrow & Young, 1995). Parents are treated with respect for their cultural background and individually as partners in the classroom’s learning community.
- Parents are part of the planning and decision-making process (Galen, 1991; Rasinski, 1995). When possible, parents are included in the planning and decision-making process regarding parent involvement activities through the involvement of the school’s parent–teacher organization, local school council, or other parent-based group.
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