Friday, September 30, 2011

Partnering with Parents - Week 4

It's Friday! You know what that means around here at Teach Mentor Texts- another insightful look at what some of our colleagues do to involve parents in supporting literacy at school!! Today we are thrilled to bring you some ideas from Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer. Donalyn is a 6th grade teacher in Texas.  She also blogs at The Book Whisperer blog and tweets at @donalynbooks. Kellee and I are extremely honored to have her guest post for us today because she is such a strong promoter of literacy and a role model for both of us. 

Donalyn outlines some key points that she shares with parents every week in an e-mail or a letter. She shares only one tip at a time allowing parents a learning curve and time to acclimate themselves to being a more active member of their child's reading lives. She describes each tip and provides resources that will support them, such as addresses, hours, and websites to local public libraries when she suggests visiting the library or websites when she encourages finding book recommendations. 

The Importance of Choice in Fostering Independent Reading
People who lose the ability to make choices become disempowered. This is true for adults and it is true for young readers.  When every book a child reads is chosen for them—by parents or teachers—children lose self-motivation to read and interest in reading. Children should choose their own reading material most of the time, but they need exposure to a book flood in order to determine what books they like and learn how to choose their own books. You can support your child by:

Introducing authors and books through read alouds. Select books by prolific authors or the first book in a series and read these books with your child. When your child enjoys the read aloud, locate another book or two by the same author, follow a series together, or read another book in the same genre. With older children, visit authors’ websites and book review sites like Take children to authors’ visits at the bookstore, library, or local university. Develop reading fans and you will develop readers.

Creating frequent opportunities for children to preview, share, and select books. Children need to become comfortable with books and feel growing proficiency in choosing books for themselves. Take children to the library or bookstore and discuss books that you might read. Talk about books that you read as a child and explain what you enjoyed about these books. Build anticipation for new books by counting down new book releases by your favorite authors or the newest book in a series.

Increasing children’s access to books by building a home library. The more books children own, the more they read, and the more comfortable they feel choosing books away from home. Visit e-bay, garage sales, book swaps, and library sales to locate low-cost books for your child. Give books as presents for holidays and birthdays, and encourage relatives to do the same. Purchase gift cards for bookstores and invite your child to choose a new book.

Above all, validate your child’s book choices even when you wish he/she would choose another book. We often complain that children do not read, and bemoan their less than high-brow choices when they do choose their own books. It is OK for your child to read comics, read the same book over and over, or prefer fantasy books. After all, adult readers have strong preferences in what they choose to read, too!

As a parent with two kiddos, one who is four and in preschool now, I am gaining some perspective into what it means to be a parent who gets notes from school and (so far) simple projects to do with my son. As a teacher, it's easy to send information home and expect students and parents to follow through. As a parent, it's tricky to keep track of where that letter is and to find time to fill it out while making dinner, giving baths, and folding laundry.  So, I love Donalyn's idea to share these great ideas one at a time and to provide as much scaffolding to parents by providing the resources to make it as easy as possible for them to follow through with our suggestions.  

A giant thank you to Donalyn for sharing her thoughts on working with parents with us today! If you don't own a copy of The Book Whisperer, you should take care of that right now because it is a great book that rewired my entire philosophy of teaching. Don't forget to come back next week for more ideas for working with parents!   


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