Parents who are concerned about ensuring their children's literacy success in school should be reassured that their job is not to replicate the school environment in the home. The home is a place in which informal language use should thrive-natural conversation, writing, and uses of language connected with different aspects of daily life. However, there are similarities between the informality of home and the formal environment of school. Teachers can help families understand the critical ways in which they can participate in and encourage children's literacy development.

Point Out Parallel Situations

It's important to have parallel spaces in both home and school, even though they might be put to slightly different uses. For instance, in the classroom you may have a library corner or a reading/writing center. Suggest to parents that children should have a space in the house designated for free drawing and writing. Maybe the child can have a little desk next to the parent's desk. If parents have their books and magazines in the family room, there should also be a space for children's books and magazines.

The important thing to point out to parents is that literacy activities can occur anywhere in the house, just as they do all around the classroom. For instance, parents can use labels, as we do in the classroom. In the pantry, they might label shelves or, in the laundry room, the dark and light clothes baskets.

Be a Read-Aloud Model

Let parents know that they can use the content of a book as an opportunity for discussion rather than a test of comprehension. You will need to make direct, developmentally appropriate suggestions. You might also consider modeling the way to sit with a child as you read a book. Show how it doesn't have to become a questionand-answer kind of thing: "What's this? Who's that? What color is this?" Rather, demonstrate how you can have a natural conversation: "I wonder why that little puppy went down the other road."

The Value of Conversation

One critical, yet simple, thing you can do to promote literacy development in the home is to help parents really value oral language-the importance of rich talk. Encourage parents to talk meaningfully with children about what happens during the hours they are in school. You can foster this interaction by sending home drawings that children have made with the story of the drawing jotted down on the back.

Diversity and Literacy

You can also point out to parents that many of the activities they do at home that stem from their cultural backgrounds are deeply literacy related. Get feedback from families about how they use books, recipes, and so on. Encourage parents to consciously focus on these literacy activities.


"Overview of Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children - A joint Position of the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education for Young Children" (IRA and NAEYC, 1998). )

Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children's Reading Success edited by M. Susan Burns, Peg Griffin, and Catherine E. Snow National Academy Press, 1999).