Parent Involvement in Early Literacy | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement. However, according to a 2007 report by National Endowment for the Arts, there are more literate people in the United States who don't read than those who are actually illiterate. How do we change that pattern for the future of our children?

PreK/Early Childhood Development Domains

Educators and parents alike know that preschool-age children need a lot of modeling to navigate through social/emotional, cognitive and gross/fine motor skills. Many experts in the field of education in the last decade have emphasized the importance of play-based curriculum and its vital role in developing a child's imagination and social skills. Learning to get along with others is modeled and developed throughout the preK years and a child's formative years through programs under the umbrella of SEI (Social/Emotional Skills): anger management, problem-solving and empathy skills. Kindergarten teachers are thankful for the beginning role that preK teachers play in this initial modeling and development. Fine and gross motor skills are honed through everyday preK learning activities such as cutting, drawing, sorting, painting, catching, throwing, kicking, hopping, jumping and writing one's name.

Cognition Domain: Early Literacy Needs Today

However, recent preK research has focused specifically on cognition within early childhood development and on how parent involvement fits into preK literacy development. Past early literacy research emphasized the importance of daily adult/child reading time, as well as having 100 or more books in one's home, and its link to a child being academically ready and successful in kindergarten. Recent research has proved that reading as a stand-alone activity will not help children with pre-literacy skills (Phillips et al., 2008). Unfortunately, the latest research on parent involvement in early literacy has stressed that children need to be given more specific skills while being read to in order to be successful with early literacy skills (Roberts, Jurgens, & Burchinal, M., 2005).

Parent Involvement: What Skills Need to be Part of a Daily Routine?

Parent involvement in early literacy is directly connected to academic achievement. Children need parents to be their reading role models with daily practice in order to navigate successfully through beginning literacy skills. According to research, parents should focus on the words on the page while reading with their preK reader (Evans, Shaw, Bell, 2000).

Here are some strategies for beginning and seasoned readers' literacy success:

  • Point to each word on the page as you read. This beginning literacy strategy will assist children with making print/story/illustration connections. This skill also helps build a child's tracking skills from one line of text to the next one.
  • Read the title and ask your child to make a prediction. Beginning and seasoned readers alike need to make predictions before reading a story. This will go a long way to ensure that a child incorporates previewing and prediction in his or her own reading practices both now and in the future.
  • Take "picture walks." Help your child use the picture clues in most early readers and picture books to tell the story before reading.
  • Model fluency while reading, and bring your own energy and excitement for reading to your child. Both new and seasoned readers struggle with varying pitch, intonation and proper fluctuations when they read aloud. Older readers will benefit from shared reading (taking turns).
  • Ask your child questions after reading every book. Reading comprehension is the reason we read -- to understand. The new CCORE standards assessing U.S. children's readiness for the workplace and college ask children at all grade levels to compare and contrast their understanding of concepts. This takes practice. Help your child explain his or her understanding of any given story in comparison to another. Have your child share a personal experience similar to a problem or theme within a story. Higher-order thinking skills (critical thinking) are skills children are expected to use in both written and oral assessments in school. There is no way for a teacher to ask every child to use a critical thinking skill every day. Parents can.
  • Connect reading and writing if possible. The connection between reading, writing and discussion should be incorporated with daily literacy practice. Have a young child dictate to a parent who writes in a journal or on a sheet of paper. Modeling the formation of sentences aligned with the words of a story is crucial for a child to begin making a neural interconnectedness between reading and writing. A child's process of drawing pictures brings his or her personal creativity toward the story. Sharing these illustrations of experiences and individual interpretations related to the sentence he or she has created on the page is yet another step toward this early balanced literacy approach.

Beginning and lifelong literacy is transformative and constantly growing. However, the process must begin when initially learning to read, and must be as intuitive to a child as when he or she learned to speak. This can happen through incorporating repetition, proper skills and modeling.


Comments (20)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Nikkie Zanevsky's picture
Nikkie Zanevsky
Employee at NWEA

Erika, great piece! I'm always scouring the net for practical parent involvement strategies and I think your bulleted list is spot-on, with some very actionable ideas. I find parents often want to be involved but don't know exactly what to do or which activities would be the most valuable, given their limited time.

Here's an article I recently wrote to highlight a 3 additional ideas for parent involvement (which can be applicable to both literacy & mathematics learning): I reference a study that showed that some parent involvement strategies have been proven to be MUCH more impactful than others... I'd love to know what you think!

Erika Burton's picture
Erika Burton
Teacher, Founder of Stepping Stones Together ,and Educational Entrepreneur

Hi there Nikkie!
Thanks for the feedback. I read through your article and do believe you provide some great tips for teachers. However, many parents need more tactile resources in order to feel confident working on skills with their children. This was one of the reasons why I created Stepping Stones Together. If we want parents to be invested in the skill based process we need to invest in providing them with easy to use, success based strategies as well as the tools to develop those skills with their child.

Thanks again for your interest!

Melanie Link Taylor's picture

Just read a recent study that analyzed how to make children smarter. Reading to young children, plus omega 3 supplements. Who knew?

Kdg Teacher's picture

I am interested in knowing your source for your opening statement, "Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement." Earlier this year we were told at a meeting that parent involvement was 6th in a list of 6 predictors. As an early childhood teacher I was surprised by the comment. I would like to provide evidence that there is research that states that parent involvement is a key to a child's academic success.

PD Carson's picture

I am going to be extending my ELL after-school tutoring program to include parents. I would like to know if anyone has any suggestions that will help make the program a success. I do believe that parents are a crucial element of success - whether or not any one study has listed parents in the first place position or in the last position.

Sara Wastler's picture

Great topic! Parent involvement is lacking at my Title I school. I really like the strategies you listed for early literacy. I also think reviewing parts of a book with the child (title, author, illustrator, contents, etc.) would be beneficial as well! There are many parents who do not feel confident in using various strategies to help their child academically. My school has a family reading and math night every month to model certain strategies for parents. I believe there needs to be more opportunities for parents to receive training on how to help their child academically at home.

Kinder2013's picture
Kindergarten Teacher

I completely agree with parental involvement in early literacy. It is especially important for students to be "ready" with the necessary skills required for kindergarten. Most of our students have not been in preschool and are not yet equipped to tackle kindergarten. However, the students are registered and are attending kindergarten. In any case, it is vital to extend learning beyond school walls.

Kate Ross's picture

Generally children do better when parents organize the home to
encourage children's literacy and language development.

demina's picture
Daycare Head Teacher

Parental involvement is so very important in a student's academic success. Parents that model reading at home will more likely have a child that will find reading to be a natural part of their daily routine. As a mother of four I love to read for enjoyment and also for school. All of my children have picked up this skill and going to buy new books is just as exciting as going to Chucky Cheese. Many times If my children are quite they are somewhere in the house with a good book reading. At work I see just the opposite from the preschool students that are instructed to complete so many minutes of independent reading. Most of the students act like reading is such a horrible thing and they would rather be in any area in the classroom besides the literacy area. Many of the studnets say they do not have books at home, or read with their parents. As a head teacher I have tried to speak with parents about taking their children to the library and I have also given students books as school prizes and gifts. Many of the parents seem so uninterested or will just agree that reading is a good thing to do but they do not do it. What are your suggestions for strategies to get parents more invovled at the daycare level?

mrs.raines1stgrade's picture
First grade teacher from West Virginia

I think your idea of teaching the parents how to help their kids with these strategies for literacy success is terrific. I would like to share these strategies with my parents, perhaps at open house at the beginning of the year. I do tell my parents to enforce their children to use their "reading finger" when they read. I find that first graders want to give up on tracking their print as soon as possible. Thank you for the helpful parent involvement ideas!

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