Effective Ways to Communicate with Parents about Reading

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  • Effective Ways to Communicate with Parents about ReadingAuthor(s): Nicholas P. CriscuoloSource: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov., 1980), pp. 164-166Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Reading AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20195200 .Accessed: 25/06/2014 19:40

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  • Effective ways to communicate

    with parents about reading

    Effective communication builds

    parent support for a reading pro gram. Here are some practical sug

    gestions for how to do it.

    Nicholas P. Criscuolo Ask parents about the reading pro gram their children are participating in at school or what methods or

    processes are being used to teach

    reading to their children and too often they will respond that they do not know.

    Don't blame parents for this situa tion. Don't blame the schools entirely either. It's a matter of communi

    cation. The schools are doing an effective job of teaching children to read yet some parents are not aware

    of this fact.

    They need to know. Parents can do a great deal to reinforce the school's

    reading program. Informed parents can also react critically when they read articles saying there is only one

    method to teach reading or that the

    schools are failing to teach their children how to read.

    How can the schools communicate

    with parents about reading? The New

    Haven, Connecticut, public school

    system has made this a top priority. Here are seven approaches used

    successfully in New Haven to achieve this worthwhile goal.

    Kindergarten registration. Parents must learn early in their youngsters' school careers that they have a strong role as reinforcers of the school's

    reading program. In New Haven, when parents register their children for kindergarten they receive an

    award-winning booklet, Read to

    Succeed, full of suggestions for

    fostering readiness skills. It is written in a crisp, succinct style without any educational jargon. It contains games and informal activities for developing prereading skills. Young children

    find the activities appealing. One

    game from the booklet is the following.

    164

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  • The cut-and-paste game: The child

    can cut, from old magazines, pictures of things that start with the same sound?a car, a coat, a cake, for

    example. To get him/ her started, paste a picture of a car, for example, on a

    brown paper bag. Then say to the

    child, "Find all the pictures you can of

    things that start like car. Cut them out

    and paste them on the bag." You can

    print the starting letter on the bag. This may help the child see that this letter makes that sound. If your child

    can't handle cutting and pasting yet, work along with him or her.

    Reading progress letters. As a

    supplement to the basal reading program, New Haven sends progress letters to parents explaining that their youngsters have successfully completed a particular level. Attached to the letter are a few short, original stories which reinforce the vocabulary at that level and a few questions to

    check comprehension for each story. The progress letter encourages parents to take a few minutes to hear their children read the stories and answer

    the questions and to praise them for their efforts. Since the children have

    successfully completed the level at

    school, they read this material for their parents with eagerness and

    pride. Many parents have responded favorably to this type of communi cation because it keeps them informed about their child's reading progress at each step of the way and allows them to share in their child's success ful reading experiences.

    Parent brochure. At PTA meet

    ings, workshops and informal gather

    ings, parents are encouraged to ask

    questions about the school's reading program or reading instruction in

    general. Some questions are asked

    repeatedly. The author compiled the 12 most frequently asked questions

    and wrote answers for each. These were compiled into a brochure entitled "Questions Parents Ask About Reading." These brochures have been distributed to all the

    schools and also placed at the city's Parents' Center.

    Parent activity sheets. The New Haven public school system has

    developed a set of performance objectives for kindergarten through grade six in reading, language arts

    and math. A committee of parents, teachers and administrators wrote 414 parent activities to correspond with each numbered performance objective. They were written for

    parents to use with children who need reinforcement on a specific performance objective. For example, a teacher has taught the performance objective "Can distinguish between fact and opinion" (Level 3, #28) and observes that certain children are

    experiencing difficulty with this task. The teacher simply takes out the

    parent activity for this objective and sends it home. Example:

    Performance objective: Can distin

    guish between fact and opinion. Materials: None.

    Procedure: Give sentences such as

    those below and ask your child if each states a fact or opinion.

    1. Dad is in the kitchen, (fact) 2. I feel that it is cold, (opinion) 3. It is cold, (fact) 4. Ted has a red ball, (fact) 5. I think that her hat is pretty,

    (opinion) Discuss that think and feel words give an opinion. A fact is something that

    can be or has been proven.

    Parent conferences on test results.

    Parents are interested in the academic

    progress their children are making in

    reading. It has been the practice of some school systems to publish standardized test scores by school in the local newspaper. This had led to

    misconceptions and erroneous con

    clusions. Fortunately, some pub

    lishers of standardized tests now

    prepare parent reports which accom

    pany the test scores of individual children and explain in clear and

    Effective ways to communicate with parents about reading 165

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  • precise language the strengths and weaknesses exhibited on the test. New Haven recently instituted a

    citywide testing program that includes

    parent reports. It proved to be a wise decision. These reports were not

    mailed to the parents; rather, released time was provided for teachers to schedule conferences with parents to

    discuss the parent report fully as well as offer additional suggestions for

    improving children's progress.

    Reading and shopping lists. Sev eral members of the New Haven

    Reading Department have visited local stores, noting the games and

    toys sold there, and compiled a list which parents can use when buying gifts. This list notes the name of the

    toy or game, where it can be pur chased locally and a brief comment about its learning potential.

    In addition to this type of list, a summer reading list has also been

    compiled which is distributed to

    elementary children in June. This list was compiled with help from the

    public libraries' staff so as to make sure the books are available when children visit the public libraries. Summer is an excellent time for children to do some pleasure reading and this list offers some guidance in

    selecting books.

    Newspaper program. In 1979 New Haven received an $89,030 Right to Read grant which was used for the

    primary grades of four low-achieving schools. As part of this program, the children received the local newspaper one or two days a week, depending on grade level. All the children received the issue which contains the "Mini Page," a one-page supplement especially designed for children. This

    page contains puzzles, riddles, articles and activities and other material which appeals to children. Addition

    ally, all fifth and seventh grade children received the newspaper one

    day per week. They were allowed to

    keep it and bring it home, fostering pride of ownership.

    Parents often ask teachers how

    they can help their children at home and what materials to use. Our answer?use the newspaper. As part of our program, a flyer entitled "Tips for Parents" has been prepared

    which offers ten activities parents can do with their children. Here are two

    examples.

    Picture clippers: Around holidays, have your young children clip pictures of Easter bunnies, shamrocks, Christ

    mas trees, turkeys, pumpkins and other symbols of the holidays. Let them color them and paste them in

    scrapbooks according to their be

    ginning letters or sounds.

    Family night: When the family decides to eat out, have your children check the restaurant ads for "special bargain

    nights" for savings on the cost of meals.

    These flyers have been sent home and provide a good basis for home school communication using a valu able resource?the newspaper.

    Concluding remarks Parents who are unaware of what the

    schools are doing to provide effective

    reading instruction tend to believe the articles they read which say that the schools are doing a poor job. Informed and knowledgeable parents can reject the distortions and inaccu racies that often crop up. To counter these distortions and scare tactics? communicate.

    There are effective ways, some of

    which are described briefly in this

    article, to communicate with parents about reading. Communication lets

    parents know what's really going on, engenders a good feeling about the

    reading program and helps parents become supportive of it as well. C

    Criscuolo is supervisor of reading for the New Haven Public Schools, New

    Haven, Connecticut.

    166 The Reading Teacher November 1980

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    Article Contentsp. 164p. 165p. 166

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Reading Teacher, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov., 1980), pp. 131-256Front MatterCommentary: Developing Literacy through Literature [pp. 132-136]Children's Narratives: New Directions [pp. 137-142]Think-Time: Implications for Reading Instruction [pp. 143-146]Instructional Uses of the Cloze Procedure [pp. 147-151]Who Learns When Parents Teach Children? [pp. 152-155]Psycholinguistics in a Real-Life Classroom [pp. 156-159]Teaching Were, with, What, and Other "Four-Letter" Words [pp. 160-163]Effective Ways to Communicate with Parents about Reading [pp. 164-166]An Analysis of Children's Favorite Picture Storybooks [pp. 167-170]Effects of the Feingold Diet on Reading Achievement and Classroom Behavior [pp. 171-174]Visual Screening: A New Breakthrough [pp. 175-177]Teaching Reading in Compensatory Classes: A Descriptive Summary [pp. 178-183]Practice in Using Location Skills in a Content Area [pp. 184-186]Laws about Special Education: Their Impact on the Use of Reading Specialists [pp. 187-191]The Basics in Reading, from the Perspective of the Learner [pp. 192-195]Test Review: Metropolitan Achievement Tests [pp. 196-201]Jaws [p. 201-201]Interchange [pp. 206-211]Letters [pp. 216-218]The Clip Sheet: Horizontal Reading [pp. 222-224]ERIC/RCS: Parents as Partners in Reading [pp. 228-230]Critically SpeakingBooks for Children [pp. 234-239]Books for ParentsReview: untitled [pp. 239-240]Review: untitled [pp. 240-241]

    Professional ReadingReview: untitled [pp. 241-243]

    Classroom MaterialReview: untitled [pp. 243-244]Review: untitled [pp. 244-245]

    Briefly Noted [pp. 245-246]

    Research Views: Social Interaction of Reading Groups [pp. 252-253]Back Matter