I love the energy of the back-to-school season. I love those early days of school when backpacks are still glistening and sneakers are bright white. I love to see the children crossing streets to school with their caregivers, their hands tightly clasped, their eyes shining with the hope that school promises. It is a time of year when children, caregivers and teachers are most receptive to new and innovative ideas. Let’s capitalize on this spirit to invigorate our home-school connection and to create systems for communication that feel easy for both families and teachers to manage.
Establishing a dialogue with families will enroll parents and caregivers as true school partners in solidifying the important practices that you teach during the school day by carrying them forward during out of school time.
I hope we can communicate from school to our families our value of the power of literature, and make sure children are given access to it, a wide variety of it, from classics to contemporary narratives to informational text; that together we value the teaching of writing and make sure children are given abundant opportunities to write across all subject areas; and that as an entire community we can help our children value critical thinking skills, teaching them to go deeper into texts and extrapolate big ideas from them.
Families are eager to be involved in their child’s school life. They really want to know we all care about their children and that we are all working together to set them up for success. The best thing we can do as educators is to reach out in a way that is most comfortable and accessible for them. Let us give families many opportunities to learn from us and with us, not just when they come into the school building. For example, let us embrace Twitter as a mode of easy and quick communication with our families. Families can get access to Twitter on their phones, which makes communication much easier. Also, a text messaging system can also make communication much easier. Think mobile. Many families do not have access to computers at home, but most do have mobile devices. We can text or Twitter great new book titles, tips on how to read aloud and help with struggling writers. Consider the parent whose reading skills are low. A Twitter message or text is much easier to read and understand. Quick tips on how they can help their child read at home, tips on great read alouds or how to help with homework, can all be shared in this way.
Be generous with your time and willing to try new approaches of communication and how we can all work together for our children, especially when English is not the native language spoken in the home. Once the lines of communication have been established, each child will have the steady, open system of support that he or she needs to become a lifelong literacy learner.
Pam Allyn will be speaking at the 3rd Annual Scholastic FACE Symposium at 8:45 a.m. EST on Monday, September 30th. Her talk, "Getting to the Heart of It: Helping Families Understand the Common Core," will be livestreamed here. We invite you to listen in and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #ScholasticFACE.