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Teaching Reading: K-2 Workshop

Connecting School and Home Examine the Topic | Connecting School and Home

Extend Your Knowledge

In this section, you will expand your understanding of connecting school and home literacy. You will compare the ideas from the workshop video with passages from various publications. Read and respond to the ideas presented as they relate to your own experiences.

One of the most frequently offered suggestions teachers give to parents is to read at home with their children. However, parents may not know how to make reading at home meaningful and enjoyable. Read the following passage Children Practicing Reading at Home by D. H. Tracey and compare it to your expectations and communications with parents.

Despite the impressive amount of research that documents the powerful influence of parents and the home environment on children’s literacy learning, few studies have examined the natural practice of children reading aloud to their parents at home (Durkin, 1966; Hannon, Jackson, & Weinberger, 1986; Lancy, Draper, & Boyce, 1989; Morrow, 1993). This is most surprising because investigation of the topic seems necessary for several reasons, the most obvious being that it is a practice extensively recommended by educators. According to a survey of 600 schools in the United States and approximately 3700 teachers, parent-child reading is the parent involvement technique most frequently recommended by teachers (Becker & Epstein, 1982)…. Two-thirds of the surveyed teachers reported often asking parents to listen to their children read to them or suggesting parents read to their children. Yet, despite the frequency with which shared literacy experiences are recommended to parents, we know very little about how the practice of children reading to parents is actually implemented and what takes place during these encounters. For example, we do not know if poor readers reading to their parents is actually a practice that contributes positively to the child’s overall literacy development or if it perhaps adds only frustrating, negative episodes to the child’s experiences.

A second reason that further study of the practice of children reading aloud to parents is needed is that parents want to learn more about how to help their children with reading (Boehnlein & Hager, 1985; Moor, 1990). It has been found repeatedly that parents, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, want guidance in how to help their children with reading and writing at home…. Yet, the only information we can currently offer parents is limited by the fact that it is grounded, almost exclusively, on school-and teacher-based models of education. Are parents to respond to their children’s oral reading as teachers do? Investigations of the ways in which parents naturally assist children during children’s at-home oral reading can allow researchers to identify parental strategies that are, and are not, supportive of children’s literacy development.

Tracey, D. H. “Children Practicing Reading at Home: What We Know About How Parents Help.” In Morrow, L., ed., Family Literacy: Connections in Schools and Communities, 256. Newark, Del: International Reading Association, 1995.

Consider these questions:

  • What are the home literacy issues emphasized in this excerpt?
  • How do these issues relate to your own classroom experiences?

Now read these suggestions to support parents reading with their children:

Ten Ideas Parents Can Use to Improve the Quality of Shared Literacy Experiences:

  1. Get your children to talk! Children learn by talking and asking questions. Encourage your children to talk about what you are reading. One way to get them to talk is to have them guess what will happen next in the story.
  2. Help your children understand the story. Sometimes children don’t understand what is happening in a book. Check regularly to see whether your children understand the story. If they do not, try to explain what is happening in your own words.
  3. Praise your children. Children love to be told nice things by their parents. Let your children know that you are proud of them when they ask a good question, say something interesting about a book, or read well.
  4. Relate the book to your life. Use the book as a jumping-off point to tell your children something interesting about your life or an event the book reminds you of that really happened. Ask your children to relate the book to their lives as well.
  5. Ask your children good questions during storybook reading. Questions that will help your children the most are those that require them to talk a lot to answer. Why and how questions are especially useful, such as “Why do you think the Pokey Puppy was sad?” and “How else could the prince have found Cinderella?”
  6. Wait for answers. After you ask a question, give your children time to answer. Most children need time to think of good answers to good questions.
  7. With younger children, point to words when you read. Pointing to words when you read to your children will help them learn what the words are, that we read from left to right, and that we turn pages only after we have finished reading all the words on a page. These ideas will help young children learn how to read.
  8. With older children, take turns reading. Your children may find reading aloud to be difficult. Support your children’s efforts by taking turns when reading.
  9. Choose books carefully. Many books are enjoyable, but to help your children the most it is important to choose books that are not too easy and not too difficult. If you are not sure about the difficulty level of certain books, librarians can help.
  10. Have fun! Above all, try to keep the book-sharing experience enjoyable!

Tracey, D. H. “Enhancing Literacy Growth Through Home-School Connections.” In Strickland, D. S., and L. M. Morrow, eds. Beginning Reading and Writing, 50. New York, NY: Teacher’s College Press, 2000. *

Encourage parents to select books that:

  • relate to the child’s interests
  • reflect the child’s own experience
  • contain pictures that provide clues to words or overall meaning
  • contain repetitive words or text patterns
  • illustrate familiar concepts of themes
  • have been read in school

Also encourage parents to try the “five-finger test.” Parents ask their child to read a page in a selected book. For every unknown word, the child holds up one finger. If s/he reaches five fingers before completing the page, the book is probably too hard. (This is best for the end of grade 1 or grade 2.)

Consider these questions:

  • Are these suggestions reflective of school-based literacy practices?
  • Which suggestions do you feel are most important for all parents?
  • How will you know if these practices are being implemented at home?

* Used with permission of Teacher’s College Press. Permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center.

Determine Conferencing Practices

In this section, you will explore an activity to better understand building home-school partnerships through parent-teacher conferences.

In the discussions, second-grade teacher Adrienne Bradshaw asks about parent-teacher conferences that do not go as well as those in the classroom excerpts. What factors contribute to a successful conference? What factors influence a difficult conference?

The interactive activity Determine Conferencing Practices allows you to organize and navigate a challenging parent-teacher conference. A non-interactive version of this activity is also available as a PDF document.

Interactive:  Determine Conferencing Practices

After completing the activity, consider these questions:

  • How did this Parent-Teacher conference compare with a difficult conference you have experienced?
  • Which aspect of the conference do you feel was most successful — for both teacher and parent?
  • Which part of the conference might you have conducted differently? In what way?
  • How would you follow-up on the conference to strengthen the trust and partnership between teacher and parent?

Assignment: Submit your written response to the questions.

Series Directory

Teaching Reading: K-2 Workshop


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. 2003.
  • ISBN: 1-57680-681-2