When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents had high expectations for me in school. They made sure I had everything I needed to succeed—clothes on my back, good food in my lunch box, and all the school supplies I needed.

They never sent me to school with any emotional burdens that prevented my focus. And when I came home, they always made sure I found time to attend to my homework.

Like all families, they were my allies and wanted success in my school outcomes.

As I reflect on all the support they gave, there were also things they simply didn’t know or weren’t aware of and I think that’s the case for many families.

That’s why, as we ease into the summer, I wanted to share a few things that will help families better understand their impact on learning. I hope these tips help you strategize and execute your family and community engagement planning this year.

Attendance Is Key

This is a best practice that is often overlooked when we connect with families. Most of us have systems in place to look at chronic absenteeism, but families don’t always understand how absenteeism in general, even a single day, can impact staying in a flow of learning and understanding content.

The closer we are matching learning to children’s zones of proximal development, the more impactful missing a day of school can be. Are you repetitively communicating this with your families? Do you have the resources to help support this type of family and community engagement?

I highly recommend checking out this paper from Attendance Works to learn more about solutions to chronic absenteeism. And if you’re looking for further resources, we offer Scholastic Literacy Events Kits and a Read and Rise program that can help with family engagement best practices and parent service programs. 

Storytelling Impacts School Success

Our families have a lot of preconceived notions about school, and that’s to be expected. Just think about a parent walking into a department looking for support materials. They often come across at-home workbooks packed with worksheets to support developing language.

We, as educators, often send similar material home. Now let me take a step back and say, there is nothing wrong with these resources. In fact, they are prime resources.

But, as we all know, school is about so much more than worksheets. And one of the most important things we can share with families is the “power of story.” Having families understand how telling stories, sharing stories, listening to stories, and asking questions when hearing stories is an essential and engaging part of learning.

Storytelling has a way of captivating the brain which lends itself to great learning. The skills of storytelling are directly related to English and social studies. However, even in math and science, the more a child is interested in the story of how something works, the process of problem solving, going through the story the scientific method produces, the better your students will be ready for learning in multi-disciplinary ways.

Many families tell stories at home, however with the right information, they can make storytelling more habitual and targeted as well as understand how their stories are connected to learning. We offer several solutions to encourage families to embrace the power of story at home, including Read and Rise and My Books Every Day.

Building Home Libraries Is Essential to Family Engagement

Because of the demands on every teacher, meeting independent reading expectations is often challenging. However, by building awareness and allyship with families, we can strengthen independent reading growth inside and outside of the classroom.

Life is about finding multipliers. Building home libraries for independent and shared reading along with building family involvement to support this area is a full body exercise experience. What I mean by that is when families share the responsibility for independent reading, the outcomes impact vocabulary development, communication skills, and writing.

Simultaneously this type of habitual reading impacts confidence, respect for different people and circumstances, cross disciplinary connections, and many more potential areas of benefit.

To help you build rich and diverse home libraries, I recommend checking out My Books Every Day (PreK-3), Grab and Go Student Packs (Grades 4-8), the Scholastic R.E.A.L. mentorship program, and signing up for a Scholastic FACE membership.

In addition to these resources, Scholastic offers a wealth of other high-quality solutions to help you engage families and community members this year. To learn more, visit our back-to-school hub or shop some of fan favorite family and community engagement professional books below.

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