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Connecting Home and School with a Reading Cafe

By Julie Ballew on December 3, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

In an effort to build bridges between the learning that students do in school and at home, our Title I school offers monthly opportunities for parents to come and learn about what their children do all day. We offer these in the evenings, and we vary the topics. Parents are free to pick and choose which ones they would like to attend. This month, we hosted a Reading Cafe, where thinking and learning were on the menu!




Teachers as Waiters

I wanted to have a cafe feel, so I set up our school gymnasium like a restaurant, with tables and chairs scattered around. (I went all in with red and white checkered tablecloths!) I also asked the teachers in my building to volunteer as waiters. Waiters were assigned to a table, and they agreed to read and discuss a favorite picture book with the families that were seated at their table.

Teacher reading to family

Teacher reading to family

Teacher reading to boy

Books on the Menu

As teachers volunteered, I asked them to let me know which book they would be sharing. I then created a menu with all of those titles. I included pictures of the books to make choosing easier for younger students. As families arrived, they were given a menu, and they chose which book they’d like to hear. I acted as maître d’ for the evening and ushered families to tables according to their menu selections.

Menu for Reading Cafe

(Click on the image to see a PDF of the full menu.)

The whole event was only an hour, but families were free to make a new menu selection and move to a new table after they finished. Most families were able to listen to three or four books.

Our goal for the evening was for parents to see how we question students as we read books to them. We wanted this to be something they could easily start doing when they read to their children at home. Parents and students sat at the tables while the teachers modeled reading aloud and asking questions as they went. The teachers kept this read-aloud true to what they would normally do in their classroom, so some of them even had the families respond to the book in some way so that parents could see how reader’s notebook entries are completed. Our drama teacher had puppets for her book and made the read-aloud interactive.

It was so much fun to see the students getting excited to share books that they already knew with their parents. They also got to hear brand new books from other teachers. I hope the parents left with a better understanding of some of the work we do during reading time.

This bookmark with questions to ask while reading, taken from Catching Readers Before They Fall by Pat Johnson and Katie Keier, is another way to help parents get their kids thinking about the books that they read. I think these questions are especially great because they can work for just about any book the family is currently reading. (Click on the image to download a PDF of the bookmarks.)

Image of Bookmarks with Reading Questions

For another type of reading/cafe night, Beth Newingham offers great ideas for hosting a beatnik style poetry cafe. We love any opportunity to bring our parents into our school. I would love to hear your ideas for increasing family involvement!

Comments (8)

This is a great idea! I'm planning on doing this at my school. I was wondering if you had any suggestions or thoughts from your experience that may help me with mine. Thank you in advance!

brilliant idea ;)

Thanks! :)

This was an awesome event! my kindergartner AND my high school student both enjoyed the stories. As a parent I was greatly impressed and I learned a lot about the questions we should be helping our readers ask while reading.

Thank you Ms. Ballew for all you do!

Thanks so much! I love any reason to share great books with Greene families! :)

Thanks, Rebecca! We had a lot of fun, and I think parents left with some new reading strategies to try at home.

Great idea. I am thoroughly impressed with the detail that went into this event, as well as your commitment to involving parents with their children's learning.


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