Family Literacy Events
The goal of Family Literacy Events is to encourage parent and caregiver involvement in the after school program. This can be done by highlighting student work and providing helpful tools and tips for families to support students' reading and writing needs.
Practice in Action
What Is It?
Family Literacy Events are special scheduled times when parents and caregivers are invited to visit and participate in activities at their child's afterschool program. Events may include workshops on homework or parenting issues; student presentations, musical activities or plays; or exhibits of student work. Family literacy events may be led by afterschool staff, local experts, or community organizations.
What Do I Do?
In order to plan successful events, it's a good practice to invite a group of parents to participate in all stages of the planning process, from sharing ideas to implementation. The families in your own community and school are your best resource for understanding what will entice others to attend. Whenever possible, offer food and child care at your events. It's a welcoming gesture, and on a practical level, it makes it possible for more parents to participate. Look for opportunities to exhibit student work, showcase student talent through presentations, and have parents visit different rooms to meet afterschool staff. Aim for a few family literacy events each year to encourage family involvement and familiarity with the afterschool program.
Why Does It Work?
At family literacy events, students can practice language and literacy skills when they talk about or demonstrate what they are learning. Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to increase their own skills as they support their children's learning. Participating in a festive, hands-on event can help families feel more comfortable with doing literacy activities at home, a practice shown to improve children's language arts and reading skills. These events can also help afterschool staff communicate with parents about their child's reading and writing progress.
There is much evidence that links parental involvement with student success. Yet many parents of ELL students are not fluent enough in English themselves to support their children's literacy development. To address this issue, a number of afterschool programs have successfully partnered with organizations that serve adult English language learners. Collaborations like these provide opportunities for adult family members to acquire English language/literacy skills while empowering them to become more involved in their children's education.
When planning family literacy events, include parents and caregivers from different cultural and language backgrounds on your committee. Ask all committee members to serve as liaisons and/or interpreters and encourage them to recruit participants in their communities. Provide promotional materials and invitations in the languages spoken in your community, and expand outreach efforts to include phone calls or in-person contact. It is important to offer transportation and child care for the event whenever possible; a lack of these services can be a major barrier to participation for many families.
Planning Your Lesson
Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.
Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons. The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.
Lesson Planning Template (PDF)
Lesson Planning Template (DOC)
Lesson Planning Template Questions
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?
How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity. Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?
What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?
Think about how you might divide up groups?who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?
Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.
What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that might be useful—and which was originally developed for science education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see the 5E's Instructional Model.
Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?
After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place. How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?
Creating Star-Quality Job Seekers (9-12)
This project helps young adults identify their strengths, present them in interviews, and develop good resumés as they seek their first jobs.
Duration: 2 hours, with additional planning and follow-up time
- Involve parents, community partners, and students with the afterschool program
- Provide functional literacy training to parents, students, and siblings
- Create connections between community employment services and community job seekers
- Improve job-seeking skills in the afterschool community
- Sample resumés geared toward common jobs in your community, from applicants with diverse characteristics (age/experience/cultural backgrounds, etc.)
- Worksheets for listing experience, education, training, activities, and service
- Handouts providing tips and resources appropriate for each learning station
- Access to computers for final production of resumés
- Identify a planning group, including partners, students, and parents.
- Use knowledge of community and parents to plan a recruitment strategy (promotion, perks, prizes, day care, etc.).
- Find individuals to run stations such as: 1) uncovering your assets; 2) tailoring the content to your personal goals; 3) presenting yourself in interviews; 4) writing a good resumé; 5) selecting a format; and 6) writing a cover letter.
- Plan presentations, activities, handouts, and coaching strategies for each station.
- Assign tasks for event hospitality and refreshments.
- Set an event date and carry out the recruitment/publicity plan.
What to Do
- Welcome participants with a sign-in sheet and name tags, and provide information about the event agenda.
- Provide all attendees with a brief introduction of the goals for the event, information about what a good resumé can/cannot do, a description of each learning station, and an introduction to the station coaches and hosts.
- Allow time for participants to visit each station for mini-sessions of about 15 minutes. Signal shift times.
- Assemble the entire group for refreshments, final giveaways (resumé paper/ free consultation), information about follow-up, and opportunities for questions.
- Collect an evaluation survey to gather feedback on the effectiveness of the format and the usefulness of the information for each activity.
- Provide handouts that list community resources for further learning.
- Work with student follow-up teams to create electronic files and edit, polish, and print copies of submitted resumés for participants.
Outcomes to Look For
- Attendance and participation from families and the community
- Participants' increased knowledge and skills of asset identification, presenting experience in interviews, and resumé preparation
- Well-prepared resumés for students and extended family members
- Interest in related follow-up events, such as more in-depth job interview instruction
- Evidence that new skills have met with success (through follow-up surveys and feedback from organizations)
Parent University (K-12)
Parent University is a monthly event designed to get parents and caregivers invested in the school community, while providing tips and tools for families.
Duration: 90 minutes
- Involve parents in the school/afterschool community
- Engage parents in their child's literacy development
- Invite communication between home and school
- Give parents ideas for reading and writing activities they can use at home
- Nametags, pens
- Welcome sign
- Paper products and utensils
- Parent directory
- Books to recommend, student work, or any displays
- Gather and identify a core group of parents to help plan.
- Identify the topic for the event, based on parent interest.
- Secure expert/presenter and create an agenda.
- Assign tasks (greeters, child care, publicity, etc.).
- Reserve necessary space, equipment, child care, and food.
- Create and distribute flyers and generate publicity.
What to Do
- Set up a welcome table with name tags.
- Provide social time to build community and to let participants enjoy refreshments.
- Welcome participants, introduce staff and speaker.
- Present the topic.
- Allow time for follow-up activities, questions, or discussion.
- Wrap-up: Thank participants for coming and conduct an event evaluation.
Outcomes to Look For
- Parent responsiveness, attendance, and engagement
- New ideas from parents
- Parent/student engagement
- Increased parent involvement and communication
- Increased parent awareness about literacy and homework help
Connecting Families Through Folk Stories and Fairy Tales (K-5)
Parents are asked to write down a folk story or fairy tale from their childhood in their primary language. Students then rewrite the story in English, adding illustrations.
- Promote cross-cultural awareness and appreciation among students, families, and staff
- Strengthen connections between home and the afterschool program
- Increase student/family engagement
- Familiarize students with the elements of the fairy tale/folk story genre
- Fairy tales and folk stories from various cultures, including students' countries of origin
- Blank "books" made of stapled sheets of paper
- Invitations translated into students' home languages
- Crayons, markers, and construction paper
- Student worksheet divided into six panels
- Familiarize students with the fairy tale/folk story genre by reading and comparing stories from around the world.
- Identify key elements of fairy tales, including structure, plot, theme, and literary conventions such as rhythm and repetition.
- Identify translators and parents within the community who can serve as contacts for connecting with families of English language learners.
What to Do
- Send letters home to parents in their first language, asking them to share their favorite fairy tale or folk story, and to write it down in the "book" provided.
- Follow up with letters and calls to families to encourage everyone's participation.
- If needed, use translators and other parents to make some of these contacts.
- Have students write down the parent's story in English and illustrate it in their own book.
- Arrange for parents to come to the classroom and read their story aloud in their home language, while their child presents the story in English. Presentations may be scheduled over several weeks.
- Have students take notes during presentations by creating "storyboards" on their worksheets with words and illustrations.
- As a culminating event, stage a "reader's theater" student performance of one of the shared stories, and invite parents and siblings to attend.
Outcomes to Look For
- Diverse cultures are represented in student-parent presentations
- Improved communication and relationships between families and program staff
- Majority of parents and students participate in the project
- Students demonstrate understanding of key elements of fairy tales through worksheets, presentations, and comments
Adapted from: Stuczynski, A., Linik, J., Novick, R., Spraker, J., Tucci, P., & Ellis, D. (2005). Tapestry of tales: Stories of self, family, and community provide rich fabric for learning. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.
Technology Tip for this practice
Even if you have only one computer, use it as a learning station at which students use their writing skills to develop a brochure to promote a family literacy event. Word processing or publishing software needed for such a publication is found on most computers and is easy for students to learn to use. Then, the night of the event, reserve the computer lab for students to show their parents how they used the computer to develop the document. Check out the complete brochure publishing lesson plan.
- National Center for Family Literacy
Promotes family literacy by improving parents' basic skills and attitudes toward education, parenting skills, children's pre-literacy and school readiness skills, and the overall quality of parent-child relationships. Offers free publications and previews of publications for sale. Information on the connections between family literacy and welfare reform are also available.
Jordan, G.E., Snow, C.E., & Porche, M.V. (2000). Project EASE: The effect of a family literacy project on kindergarten students' early literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly 35(4), 524-546.
Neuman, S. B., Caperelli, B. J., & Kee, C. (1998). Literacy learning, a family matter. The Reading Teacher, 52(30), 244-254.
National Center for Family Literacy. (2003). Literacy facts and figures (4th ed.). Louisville, KY: Author. Retrieved June 6, 2003, from https://education.ucf.edu/mirc/Research/Literacy%20Facts%20&%20Figures%20-%202003.pdf.
General Literacy Web Resources
- SEDL Reading Resources
- Bank Street College of Education Guide to Literacy for Volunteers
- International Reading Association
- Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS)
- Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement
- RAND Reading Study Group
- Institute for the Development of Educational Achievement
- Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE)
- Reading Rochets
- The Children's Literature Web Guide
- Fun Brain
- Teaching Reading, K-2, A Library of Classroom Practices
General Literacy Text Resources
- Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. (1996). Guided reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. A comprehensive resource for implementation of guided reading activities
- National Research Council. (2000). Starting out right: A guide to promoting reading success.Washington DC: National Academy Press.
- Braunger, J. & Lewis, J.P. (1997). Building a knowledge base in reading. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. This synthesis of research on how children learn how to read provides a baseline for educators and policymakers to consider in helping all children to meet higher standards.
- Novick, R. (2002). Many paths to literacy: Language learning and literacy in the primary classroom.Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. This resource provides guidance on selecting children's books, and specific strategies to build comprehension from emergent literacy to independent reading.
- Curtis, M. & Longo, A. (1990). When adolescents can't read: Methods and materials that work.Cambridge, MA, Brookline Books.
- RMC Research Corp. (2001). Put reading first: Helping your child learn to read. A parent guide. Preschool through grade 3. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.
Describes the kinds of early literacy activities that should take place at school and at home to help children learn to read successfully. Designed for parents, based on the findings of the National Reading Panel.
- Armbruster, B.B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read, kindergarten through grade 3. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Summarizes what researchers have discovered about how to teach children to read successfully. It describes the findings of the National Reading Panel Report and provides analysis and discussion in five areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.