As I was entering my fourth year of teaching this past August, I began to plan Family Literacy Nights. My goal in doing this was to inform parents of how they can support their child in learning to read at home and to build a home-school connection. I was inspired by a book titled Building a Culture of Literacy Month-by-Month by Hilarie Davis. Using the ideas in this book as a guide, I drafted an outline of the Family Literacy Nights before the school year started, including topics, resources, and presentation ideas for each meeting. I shared these ideas with my grade level, and was very pleased that all teachers wanted to participate in hosting these Family Literacy Nights. We decided to have one presentation done in Spanish and one in English.
We held our first Family Literacy Night in September. The theme was “Literacy at Home.” We presented a PowerPoint, informing families of how to capitalize on literacy at home in order to inspire a habit of reading for pleasure in their children. We gave them photocopies of fun reading materials they could share with their child anytime, such as jokes and poems. We concluded with a make-and-take activity, in which families designed a “Reading Buddy” puppet from a paper bag. Unfortunately, even though we had advertised this Family Literacy Night for several weeks, we only had a turnout of 5 parents at the English presentation.
Our second Family Literacy Night was held in October, a week following the administration of the TPRI. The topic was “Fluency.” This time, we made the invitations more personalized. For example, we wrote personal invitations to each family and made phone calls to invite parents. These efforts resulted in the attendance of 15 families. At this Family Literacy Night, we discussed what fluency is as well as why it is important. We also modeled strategies that parents can use to build their child’s fluency, and parents had the opportunity to practice each technique with their child.
After each presentation, we asked families to fill out a brief survey. All surveys were extremely positive – in the multiple choice sections, parents checked “I agree” for all of the statements regarding how they benefited. Parents were also asked to write two significant things they learned during the workshop, a question they still had, and a suggestion they had. These open-ended questions gave us insight about the message we communicated as well as what we needed to do for the next presentation. I have also noticed that the parents who attended the Family Literacy Nights approach me more often with questions regarding what they can do to increase their child’s achievement. Because of these positive responses, I have come to see Family Literacy Nights as a strong bridge between the home and school, and I would encourage anyone who has not hosted a Family Literacy Night to try it.