Sunday, September 15, 2013

Five Ways to Build Parent Engagement at Your School - Part 1

This is the first in a five-part series on how to build parent engagement at your school.

Parent engagement has never been more important for our schools and our students. Our schools and our students desperately need parents to be engaged and invested in the educational process, truly engaged and not just working the concession stand or serving on the booster club. Our schools need parents who know what's happening at school, who support the process, who want students to be challenged and held accountable, and who seek to partner with the school. Our students need parents who want to know what's going on at school, who support the school at home in front of the students, who model life-long learning, who don't make excuses for their students and who value education. Seasoned education veterans know from experience what a difference parent engagement can make and research supports this (see Amanda Ripley's The Smartest Kids in the World, for example). The challenge, of course, lies in getting parents engaged.

1. Build parent engagement through literature
All students have required reading of some sort. For some students, required reading may be ABC board books or early reader chapter books, for others it may be To Kill a Mockingbird, and for others still it may be a collection of Shakespeare's sonnets. These examples, along with every other reading assignment (excluding textbooks and technical material), provide perfect opportunities for parent engagement. Kudos to parents who would read a chemistry text with their child, but literature lends itself to community reads much better than textbooks. As a school leader hoping to build parent engagement through literature, you should encourage/persuade/beg your parents to do a number of simple but valuable things.

First, you should encourage parents to read every piece of literature their children read. Seriously, every piece of literature. You should do everything humanly possible to make sure parents do the summer reading with their children. You should remind parents every time a new novel or poem is assigned, then urge them to read with their children. You could even provide extra copies in the school library for parents to check out. Whatever you have to do, by hook or by crook, get your parents to read with their children.

Second, you should encourage your parents to dialogue with their children about what they read. For example, at Open House or Parents' Night you should encourage parents to ask their children questions about the latest reading, discuss the characters or talk about what they like or disliked most about the reading. Remind parents often that having these conversations with their children actually makes their children smarter, makes their children think, and demonstrates for their children how much they value reading and learning. You could even go so far as to have your teachers send home discussion questions so your parents can have more meaningful, guided discussions about what they read.

By getting parents involved with your school's reading assignments, you're doing far more than assuring that students read or reinforcing the idea that reading is important. For starters, you're entering into a partnership in the education of children. Neither the parent nor the school can wholly educate a child. This must be a joint effort. You're also helping parents parent - you're providing a means by which the family can spend meaningful time together. Also of great importance, at least for the sake of this conversation, you're building engagement. When students and parents begin to have positive experiences centered on things at or from school, both students and parents become more likely to value and support the school, it's teachers and it's mission. Using literature as a means to that end is a great way to begin.

1 comment:

jaspreet singh said...

hope this help more more parents to follow school activities