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Using Family & Other Resources in Literacy Instruction

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching children to read and write is one of the most important tasks of a teacher. This lesson gives you some ideas about getting families, community members,and colleagues involved in helping all children develop their literacy.

Whole Community Literacy Involvement

Jennifer is a first-grade teacher at a public elementary school. While she feels good about how her classroom runs, she wonders if there might be a better way to get her students involved with their broader community. Further, she wonders if her literacy instruction, or teaching of reading, writing and language arts, might be richer if she could increase family involvement. Jennifer has learned from professional development that family support and understanding can make a tremendous difference in students' academic success. She also understands that children feel safer about taking risks and learning new concepts if they have a supportive community behind them. Jennifer undertakes to make better use of family and other resources in her literacy instruction.

Family Support

First, Jennifer decides she wants more involvement from families in her classroom when it comes to literacy. She develops several strategies for increasing family support.

  • Educational Letters

Every month, Jennifer sends home a newsletter, or informational and engaging sheet, detailing what her students are working on in literacy and explaining what families can do to help their children develop as readers and writers. She includes book titles, ideas for games, and tips for getting reluctant readers started.

  • Family Read-Ins

Each Friday morning, Jennifer makes it clear that families are welcome to come into the classroom and stay as long as they want, reading to their children and others. This helps families feel connected to the school and classroom and helps children understand how important literacy is to the family.

  • Character Nights

Jennifer knows that mornings are not always easy times for families, so once every six weeks, she hosts a character night in her classroom. Children and their families are invited to come in dressed as their favorite characters from books. They each introduce their character and recommend books they love to one another.

Community Outreach

Jennifer knows that others from the community can also support children's literacy development. She begins working with different strategies to engage community members.

  • Read to a Child

Jennifer talks to leaders of local businesses and service industries to ask them if some of their staff members are available to come to the school once a month and read alongside children. She finds that community members welcome the opportunity for involvement, and children benefit from the extra attention and support.

  • Letter-Writing

Because writing is also an important part of literacy, Jennifer has her students write letters to people at places they love in their community. When they get responses, Jennifer incorporates these letters into her lessons and fosters developing pen pal relationships.

  • Read Your World

Every few months, Jennifer takes her students on a walking tour of one area in their community and asks them to 'read the world.' Students begin to see how their developing literacy can help them navigate their community, learn what is what, and develop important questions for future investigation.

Colleague Help

Finally, Jennifer thinks about what she can do within her own school to maximize involvement in students' literacy development. With supportive colleagues, she comes up with a few great ideas.

  • Reading Buddies

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