Numerous children begin school having few encounters with books, including adults reading aloud to them. Families say the biggest obstacles to reading aloud with their children are time and access to books (Lane & Wright, 2007). Since family members are every child’s first teachers, it is important that educators consider how to help with these obstacles (Grant, Bell, Yoo, Jimenez, & Frye, 2017). Sometimes the hurdle is having books in the home, but it can also be about those books being in a parent’s first language. When teachers and families collaborate on essential strategies, like reading aloud, they build better communication, connections, and overall student literacy learning (Grant et al., 2017; Lane & Wright, 2007). Since time cannot be controlled, access to books became my goal for building better relationships and building up my students’ literacy skills for this school year. These are a few of the steps and ideas I utilized to promote reading at home.
The first step I took was to ask family members and friends to adopt students in a class for a school year. Each student adopted would receive a new book every month (September through April). The donors would send the teacher eight dollars, one dollar per month, to provide for those books. The teacher would then utilize the $1 Scholastic books in their club orders, getting the same book for each child. My goal was a little different. I wanted the books close to my students’ reading levels and of interest to them. To reach this goal, I bought some of the Scholastic book sets that had a variety of books and levels. I also made sure to attend the local Scholastic teacher book fair. These two methods made the most of the donated funds and I covered any extra costs myself. Here are a few things I will want to remember for next year:
● Due to the increased cost of books, my suggestion would be to ask for two dollars per book if you want to give students books on their level.
● Send thank you notes to donors as soon as the funds arrive.
● Take photos of children reading the books to send to the donors from time to time. (Faces should be hidden or obscured for student confidentiality.)
● Send those same photos to parents each month to get them excited and involved.
● Order books ahead of time.
● Wrap the books in some way each time so the kids have the joy of opening a gift.
One of the tools I utilized this year was a class Epic account. Through the class Epic account, my students can read a variety of reading materials online, including comics, chapter books, and do-it-yourself books. There are also a large number of books that students can listen to read aloud as well. These read aloud books are easy to find in sections marked “Read to Me” and “Audio Books”. Epic also has kid friendly videos on a variety of topics.
Although Epic offers the largest selection with an easy individual log on, there are other read aloud sites for free. Storyline Online (https://www.storylineonline.net/) is a program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. These books are read aloud in videos featuring actors and actresses and each includes an activity guide created by an elementary educator. Scholastic Magazine also created Scholastic Learn At Home (https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html) to help families during COVID 19 and each day includes a book that is read aloud in a video format through BookFlix.
Things to remember with technology:
● Be sure to show your students how to access the site.
● Send parents a note including the site’s address and step-by-step directions for use.
● Try not to assign specific work. Make this all about child choice and for fun.
Numerous children begin school having few encounters with books, including adults reading aloud to them. Families say the biggest obstacles to reading aloud with their children are time and access to books (Lane & Wright, 2007)
Write a Grant
I wrote a grant as part of my college course curriculum that combined a family engagement plan with getting books into the hands of every family that participated in a family engagement event. We read one of the books aloud in two languages and offered a laminated bookmark with the translation. There were also two other books available to offer the families choice. The books all shared a thankful theme that was the center of the event. They were varied reading levels, but all within our grade range. Our family engagement night also included two service projects to help non-profit organizations in the community that specifically help children. Books could match any theme for a family
Families and Reading: One Step Forward