Guest Writer: Tiffani Wroe
Teachers are tasked with students’ education — but education happens outside the classroom, too. In fact, when it comes to reading, studies show that children who practice their skills at home with parents become better readers faster than their peers who lack reader-friendly homes.
While teachers hardly have any control over what happens at home, they can influence kids and parents to participate in reading outside of school hours. Even more, they can equip parents with the right tools and techniques for improving reading skill. Here’s how.
Identify Non-reading Homes
Because the goal is to get children reading at home with their parents, students who already demonstrate a healthy and happy home reading life are not the priority in this instance. Instead, teachers need to work to identify homes that don’t promote reading — and fortunately, this isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
Toward the beginning of the school year, teachers should talk with their classrooms about their reading habits. With older students, teachers might employ a “get to know you” written questionnaire, but younger students should be surveyed verbally. Teachers should ask questions digging into students’ general reading ability and interests, but particularly, teachers should probe about reading habits at home. Important questions to ask include:
- Do you ever see your parents, guardians or older siblings reading? How often do they read?
- Do you ever turn off the TV or computer to read?
- What is your favorite kind of book to read, not for schoolwork?
Using tactics like this, educators can divide the classroom into kids who engage in reading at home and kids who don’t. Then, teachers can make a plan for remedying homes that aren’t reader-friendly.
Speak With Non-reading Parents
The unfortunate truth is that educators can engage with students to a high degree and still fail to increase their reading ability or enthusiasm. This is because kids are heavily influenced by their parents’ behavior and attitude, especially when it comes to difficult skills like reading. Thus, to change reading habits at home, teachers need to get through to parents.
To start, it’s important for teachers to have some perspective on why parents aren’t prioritizing reading at home. Most often, parents aren’t anti-reading; they are simply too busy with work or other responsibilities to read, let alone to consider how their lack of reading might impact their children. Additionally, some households might have adults who never gained a strong literacy skill, perhaps because English is not their first language or because they lacked a similarly invested educator in their youth. In all instances, teachers should be sympathetic to parents’ reasons for not reading with their kids — but they should also work to retrain parents with better reading habits.
A good first step is to reinforce how important reading is, not just for grades but for lifetime success. Studies show that stronger readers tend to be more successful in their academic and professional careers — and that more successful people read more often and enjoy it. Reading is critical for almost every other academic endeavor; a student cannot gain knowledge in fields like history or science if that student cannot read related texts. Finally, parents and children who read together tend to form stronger relationship bonds because they are physically and emotionally closer for more time each week.
Teachers should schedule parent-teacher meetings to stress the importance of reading at home. It might also be useful for teachers to organize parent workshops to give parents tools and techniques for encouraging reading outside of the classroom. Educators might offer resources for struggling parents, like books as well as supplies for utilizing close reading strategies at home. It’s vital that teachers avoid sounding patronizing or condescending when addressing parents; rather, both parents and teachers are part of a team to help students gain the best reading skills possible.
Teachers should never stop trying to bring reading into homes that are not reader-friendly. Educators should consistently reach out to parents and guardians with handouts, presentations, workshops and even information on school websites, extolling the virtues of reading at home and providing tips and tricks for building a strong student reader. Not all parents will take the bait and make their homes reader-friendly — but some will, and improving some students’ lives and reading ability is better than doing nothing.