Why home-school partnerships in reading?
A collaborative approach between school staff and parents and whānau is crucial to motivating and supporting students to read for pleasure. To become engaged readers, students need to have access to high-interest, culturally inclusive reading resources and make time for reading. When students read for pleasure they are likely to read more frequently and gain all the benefits of increased reading and literacy skills, learning outcomes, empathy, social skills and well-being.
Building relationships to support priority learner groups
The focus of home–school partnerships is on the concept of Ako — learning together and learning from one another. Strong relationships give students the best chance of success. These include the following relationships:
- staff to student
- staff to parent and whānau
- staff to community
- student to student.
Effective home-school partnerships help ensure all students, particularly priority learners, receive inclusive and responsive reading experiences.
The Education Review Office (August 2012) identified priority learner groups of students as "historically not experiencing success in the schooling sector". This includes "many Māori and Pacific learners, those from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students with special education needs".
School libraries important in building home-school partnerships
School libraries and library staff play an important role in building a school-wide reading culture. Key to this is collaboration with teachers and school leaders, parents and whānau, public libraries and other resource agencies. Parental and whānau support can range from involvement at home by reading with their children, or at school by engaging in reading, writing and oral language activities in the classroom and library.
Parents and whānau play a critical role in supporting their children’s learning right from the start. Evidence shows that learning outcomes are enhanced when parental involvement in school is sustained and focused on learning activities."
— Ka Hikitia, p.28.
Reading for pleasure — a door to success
What’s hot in literacy: 2017 Report (pdf, 3MB) — International Literacy Association's survey of countries, including New Zealand, shows that students who read independently have a higher rate of academic success than those who don’t and the value of school staff and parental support.
Successful reading initiatives common elements
Key to successful reading initiatives is your school knowing your learners’ needs and reading interests, and school staff and parents and whānau understanding their role as reading role models. There needs to be a common understanding that reading for pleasure is valued and there is an expectation that every student is a reader.
Knowing your learners — vital to success
Successful home-school partnerships are formed by:
- school-community understanding and acknowledging the value of identity, language and culture to enable students to reach their full potential. (cf Ka Hikitia, Pasifika Education Plan, Success for all)
- school staff, students and parents sharing their unique knowledge of the student
- schools providing culturally inclusive and responsive information and resources, which encourage and support family involvement with their children’s reading.
Community engagement — Ministry of Education has provided a range of resources for working in partnerships with communities, including whānau, hapū, iwi and Pasifika parents and communities.
Parents and whānau — understanding their role
It's important for parents and whānau to know why reading for pleasure is important and how they can support, encourage and role model reading to their children.
Research shows the influential role they have in children’s educational achievement and personal growth:
- Parents providing early literacy support — children familiar with books and stories before they start school are better prepared to engage in literacy and learning activities.
- Parental information on children’s learning needs and interests enables teachers and library team to provide inclusive and responsive literacy, digital literacy and learning programmes.
- Parental involvement can also help improve students’ attendance at school, behaviour and achievement in reading and learning outcomes.
- Students who are encouraged to keep reading over the long summer break avoid the ‘summer slide’ or ‘summer slump’ in reading gains made during the year.
Why summer reading is important
Valuing parents in the reading process (pdf, 651KB) by Kay Lowe, Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETTA) Paper168
Successful literacy programmes engage families
Successful literacy programmes that engage families have the following 5 common features:
A sense of community supports successful literacy programmes by:
- Having an established sense of community — recognising that everybody has something useful to contribute. Members of the family can offer insights for understanding individual children and contribute their knowledge to areas of study.
- Parents involved in planning literacy programmes and content reflects diversity in the types of literacy experiences and activities that take place in their home and community.
- Teachers' and library team’s effective interpersonal skills – a welcoming manner and an understanding of family challenges.
- Ongoing and varied communication – face-to-face, phone calls, newsletters, classroom visits, community events.
- Consistent recruitment of family participation – providing plenty of opportunities through the school year and holidays, for example local public library events, summer reading programme.
Culturally inclusive strategies
Culturally inclusive strategies to support literacy programmes are to:
- Provide suggestions for a variety of literacy activities for the home and tips on how to support literacy. For example, keeping it natural and enjoyable rather than an extension of school and providing specific strategies for modelling and supporting reading.
- Provide suggestions for a range of inclusive resources — print, multimedia and digital – that take into account students’ identity, languages, reading interests and learning abilities.
- Promote multiple forms of access to diverse reading material in a range of formats, languages and content, like the school library, public library, specialist libraries (such as Blind and Low Vision Education Network New Zealand), Duffy Books in Homes, Scholastic Book Clubs.
Community evaluation is important for a successful literacy programme to:
- Monitor and review initiatives as part of the school’s literacy assessment processes, with input from parents/whānau and students (“learner voice”).
- Gather evidence before, during and afterwards to show what made a difference.
- Use the findings to inform future home-school practice and initiatives.
Added value for parents and whānau
Successful literacy programmes will add value for parents and whānau in the following ways:
- By enhancing the reading skills of their children, parents have improved their own literacy skills. Many parents also discovered the joy of reading for themselves and were reading more.
- Improved relationships — bond between parent and child improved through the fun, relaxing experience of reading together and having shared discussions about stories.
- Support network available for parents — literacy programmes help parents realise they're not alone in wanting to help their child to read, but could call on support, discuss progress made and share stories of success with others.
As parents learn about the essential skills for reading and practice those skills with their children, they can support their children’s reading acquisition while improving their own.
— Darling & Westburg (2004)
Added value for school staff
Literacy programmes succeed if they add value for school staff, for example:
- Forming home-school partnerships cross-school communication between school leadership, teachers, specialist staff (such as Resource Teachers Literacy (RTLit), Special Education Needs Coordinator, and school library staff).
- Sharing knowledge and expertise to develop inclusive classroom programmes and library services, which effectively support student learning outcomes.
Summer Reading Loss — ideas on this page have been adapted from a paper by Mraz and Rasinski (2007)
How schools can help parents encourage reading
About 85% of a child’s time is spent out of school. Spending some of that time reading will help their progress in all areas of learning.
Your school can:
- Let parents know how important reading together with their children is for their reading fluency and educational achievement.
- Look at targeted support, like priority learners, particularly parents with children who have been through Reading Recovery or participated in the Reading Together® programme, to keep the momentum going.
- Encourage them to make time, space and routines for this enjoyable activity during the school year and over the holidays, to avoid the ‘summer slump’ or ‘summer slide in reading’. For example, Rongomai School in Auckland developed an initiative to provide bean bags to homes to create a reading place. They also provided training for parents in Pause Prompt Praise, a set of reading tutoring strategies, and found increased reading mileage and achievement as a result.
- Encourage inclusion of members of the wider whānau — grandparents, aunties and uncles, and other family members. Reading with grandchildren can be a special time for grandparents, cementing close bonds between the generations. Technology also makes it possible for long distance grandparents to share books through video tools such as Skype and social networking tools.
- Set up a parent library in your school, which includes books and brochures for parents about reading and promote these to parents. Consult literacy leaders and RTLits for suggestions as to what to include. Check your teacher resource room for suitable titles that can be transferred.
Reading together supports children’s success – in the classroom and beyond – and is a great way for families to share special moments and make memories.
— Laura Bay (President, National PTA, United States)
Reading Together programme
School's literacy programme literally full of beans — New Zealand Herald report on Rongomai School bean bag initiative
Pause Prompt Praise — a set of reading tutoring strategies
Develop inclusive responsive library services
To help parents encourage their children to become motivated and engaged readers, your school and school library can develop inclusive, responsive library services:
Develop a SOCIAL library
- Use the School Community Profile template to help profile your school community.
- Consult with senior leadership, teachers, literacy leaders, teacher aides, specialist staff (for example, Resource Teachers Literacy Reading Recovery (RTLit), Special Education Needs Coordinator(SENCO) Reading Recovery, Resource Teacher Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs)) and library team.
- Build relationships with students and their parents and whānau, local iwi, Pasifika and English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) community groups, disability groups, public library and other organisations.
- Reflect your student community through the inclusion of resources, cultural displays and languages
School Community Profile template
Match students with resources
To help you match students with resources you can:
- Work with students and their families to understand students’ personal interests as well as their reading and learning abilities.
- School staff and the library team can then promote and match culturally inclusive resources – books, multimedia and digital.
- Think about how to provide access to a range of language resources and media suitable for Māori, Pasifika, ESOL learners and students with learning support needs.
- To supplement your school's reading resources your school can request a whole-school reading engagement loan from National Library Services to Schools. You could make these resources accessible through your library.
- Provide selected resource lists to parents targeted to their child’s interests and reading level. These can also support the transition from picture books to junior chapter books or series, to fiction and genres.
- Think about how to make digital resources relevant to your school community easily accessible as part of your library’s online presence.
Help your child figure out his or her interests by asking these questions: If a book were written just for you, what would it be about? If you could be an expert on any subject, what would it be? What are two things you are really curious about?
— Amy Friedman , 6 Ways to Create a Love for Reading
National Library’s lending services
Student reading interests
Topic Explorer — helps you find quality, curated resources on a range of topics that inspire and support inquiry.
Encourage family membership of your school library
You can help family's feel welcome in the library and to encourage them to visit in a number of ways:
- Invite parents into the library to choose books for and with their children. Guide them about how they can help their children choose what to read.
- Have generous borrowing limits that allow parents to borrow books for reading aloud at home.
- Arrange for parents to borrow books for pre-schoolers — liaise with kōhanga reo, Pacific Island language nests and early childhood centres to assist transitions to school.
Helping children choose books for reading pleasure
Provide reading strategies for parents to use
Engage parents in reading strategies in school, at home and at the public library.
Some reading strategies for school:
- Talk to your students and their families. What activities would they like in their library?
- Engage parent help with reading, writing and oral language activities in the school and in the library.
- Provide book clubs and other library activities. Incorporate activities suitable for particular groups of students, like sharing of dyslexia friendly stories; te reo Māori resources.
- Highlight special events such as Book Week, Duffy Books in Home assemblies, language weeks, and community celebrations. Include guest speakers such as community leaders, authors and illustrators.
- Involve parents in blending reading with Makerspacer and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activities and crafts. Children/teens learn to use tools and materials and develop creative projects.
What is a makerspace
Organisations, events and awards celebrating reading
STEAM — Amy Koester has gathered a range of ideas, activities, experiments, and reading suggestions for projects across the curriculum which she has pinned on Pinterest
Welcoming children with disabilities at your library — list of adaptable activities for public libraries
Some reading strategies for home:
- Promote making time for reading each day — at least 10–15 minutes or in lots of 5 minutes.
- Include 'reading homework' to encourage students to read regularly each day.
- Share storytelling tips with parents on how to read aloud effectively and share read aloud recommendations. Model specific strategies for parents to use, e.g. how to use prompting clues, paired reading, guided reading.
- Promote use of various types of text, such as expository texts, factual texts, signs, posters.
- Suggest enacting scenes from plays or other texts, using storytelling puppets, writing and performing vignettes from parts of the story.
- Use creative storytelling tools for children to write their version of a story. Web 2.0 Cool tools for schools has a treasure trove of tools.
- Enable families to borrow books from the school library for holiday reading.
Parent programs, where they were taught literacy skills to use with their children, were twice as effective as those where parents listened to their children read and six times more effective than those where parents were encouraged to read to their children.'— Kaye Lowe (2015)
Web 2.0 Cool tools for schools
Reading at home
At the public library
Some reading strategies for the public library:
- Provide opportunities for students to visit the public library during school time and after school. Encourage parents and other family to join the library and use it with them.
- Arrange for an evening or weekend family event at the public library with a guided tour. Learn about library programmes on offer and types of available resources, e.g. books, large print books, eAudiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, eNewspapers, musical cds, and dvds of movies.
- Encourage families to take part in special events and programmes during the school week, weekends and the holidays. For example, read aloud, storytelling, creative writing, poetry readings, Makerspace activities and summer reading challenges.
Parents as reading role models — especially dads
Highlight to parents that they are important reading role models to inspire their children to read, especially boys. The key is seeing their fathers or other men in their lives read and hearing them talk about their favourite reads.
Good reading role models at home might:
- read in front of their children
- chat about books and what they are reading in a positive and encouraging way
- read aloud to their children
- explain how the simple act of reading for pleasure is so important and enjoyable! (leads to improved literacy skills, vocabulary and knowledge of the world)
- surround their home with books in a range of genre, magazines, newspapers and catalogues
- show that reading is a part of everyone’s lives by reading diverse materials such as cookbooks, cereal boxes, instructions for kitsets/games/puzzles, websites, television adverts, telephone directories, and environmental print such as road signs, billboards and logos
- borrow from libraries and buy from bookstores together — practise the art of browsing and noticing interesting topics.
“Your child walks like you, talks like you, and absorbs everything you do. So set the right example when it comes to reading. If you want your child to be a good reader, be one yourself!”
— Be a reading role model for your child (Scholastic)
There are a variety of useful resources available to support parents including:
Help your child become a reader — contains brochures created by Services to Schools with have strategies for reading together with your children. Available in English, Māori, Samoan, Niuean, Tokelauan, Tongan and Cook Island Māori.
My reading superhero videos — a series of animated short episodes celebrating the teachers, librarians and family members who read to and inspire us to read.
Reading aloud — contains brochures created by Services to Schools with advice on the benefits of reading out loud and tips on how to read to children. Available in English, Māori, Cook Island Māori, Samoan and Tongan.
Top tips for engaging dads — a one-page summary of great tips to get father's involved in their children's reading.
Reading Together® Programme
The research based Reading Together® Programme has been running workshops successfully for many years with students from ages 5 to 15. Developed for parents, children and teachers, it aims to help parents support their children's reading at home more effectively. The Early Reading Together® is for parents and whānau of young children (babies to 5 and 6 year olds).
The video on the Reading Togther programme page features Liz Christensen who talks about Reading Together® at Ohaeawai School.
Reading Together programme
Power of bedtime reading
Successful partnerships require an understanding of the challenges and barriers some families face. Provide targeted resourcing and promotion of services based on school reading data and evidence you have gathered.
A survey by Oxford University Press of 300 teachers primary school teachers found as many as half were teaching children who had never been read a bedtime story.
Jim Trelease recommends 'the three Bs' — book ownership, bookshelves and a bedside lamp, with bedtime pushed out in favour of quiet reading time.
Bedtime stories can include an ongoing serial for older children, as well as shorter stories of all kinds for young or old.
Jim Trelease — where the goal is to help children make books into friends, not enemies
Communicate regularly with families
Communicate regularly with families. Emphasise the importance of keeping reading at home fun and relaxing. Include helpful, practical suggestions and resources to implement them. Some ideas from schools include:
- informal conversations and meetings
- regular snippets in the school newsletter or classroom newsletter
- notes to parents in homework diaries or attached to resources such as a suggested bedtime reading book
- a letter or flyer home each term
- talking about reading during parent/teacher interviews
- use ICT opportunities such as links on the school website, or a link for parents on the classroom blog.
Other initiatives to develop partnerships are to:
- Put up quotes about reading in places where parents as well as your staff and students will see them — in classrooms, around the school, in corridors, the foyer and staffroom.
- Share with parents links to good sources of supply. Include local bookshops with good knowledge and stock of children's literature, and useful websites with recommendations and reviews of books.
Measure the impact of home-school partnerships
You can measure the impact home-school partnerships have made on students’ competence in reading as part of your school’s assessment of the school’s literacy programme.
An evidence-based approach will help guide:
- information gathering on existing practices
- targeting support for parents and whānau and their children
- monitoring and reviewing the impact of initiatives.
Some ideas for data-gathering activities include:
- check the library catalogue’s ‘reports’ section on issue statistics and linking this information with students’ reading data
- collect anecdotes, testimonials, and photographs of parents and students to illustrate how they and the library’s services enrich the reading lives of students. Evaluate the effectiveness of home-school initiatives on student learning
- identify successes and areas requiring improvement — what worked and didn’t work, what you would do differently, and evidence gathered
- keep school leadership informed of plans, developments, successes and issues
- report on your school library’s involvement in your library’s annual report
- use success stories to promote and continuously improve home-school practices in supporting reading.
Find out more
Here is a selection of resources you can share about home-school partnerships.
Community engagement — Te Kete Ipurangi hosts Home-School Partnerships content for schools. The Literacy modules are designed as workshops for primary schools wanting to focus on some aspect of literacy with parents and teachers.
Education.govt.nz for parents — has tips for parents about helping their child learn at home.
Guidelines for listening to children read (pdf, 163KB) — Teacher-Librarian Barbara Braxton wrote these guidelines from the child's perspective (used with permission)
Ideas to help with reading — Ministry of Education, ideas to keep children developing their literacy and numeracy skills at home.
Jim Trelease brochures — writer and passionate advocate for reading aloud to children of all ages. His website has many useful resources for schools, including a list of downloadable brochures about families and reading. Scroll down his Brochures page to find easy-to-follow instructions for getting permission to duplicate these brochures in quantity for non-profit institutions.
Parents guide to helping children with reading and writing at home by Kaye Lowe Primary English Teaching Assocation Australia (PETTA)
Reading resources — the US Department of Education provides reading tips and resources for parents.
Reading Rockets — free monthly newsletters Ed Extras aimed at helping parents help their children become readers (primary school level). Adapted you could use them as a starting point for information in school newsletters to keep the home reading practice thriving. They also provide links to a Parents page, and a sister site focused on adolescent literacy.