Our excitement is ramping up for the newest Year of the Book town kickoffs, and we are thinking a lot about successes and lessons learned when looking back over our first year of offering this grant. We have been excited to hear about the burgeoning relationships between the school and the public library, the changed culture among students who are now seeing books as “cool,” and the inspired poems written by children who used to claim they hated to write.
With the triumphs, however, also come the challenges. How are schools going to keep the momentum going once CLiF is gone? What steps can we take to forge stronger relationships and create a culture of literacy among the community and the school? How can we reach those families who may be more isolated and unable to participate in school-based activities? How can we galvanize more parent involvement at school activities?
Over the next few weeks we will be asking you, our readers, to tell us what has worked for you when struggling with these same challenges. We’ve found time and again that starting conversations around the roadblocks we may hit lead to some incredibly interesting and inspiring ideas. Not every situation requires the same solution, so the more options we can provide, the more the schools we serve will discover their ticket to success hidden amongst those possibilities.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, administrator, librarian, community organizer, or someone who is passionate about literacy, education, and community, we want to hear from you with your stories of stumbling blocks and successes in our new series, “Giving You the Floor”.
This week, we will be focusing on the issue of creating more parental involvement.
Often we hear that schools would like to develop strategies to entice more parents to attend special school events focused on literacy. This is not to say we don’t see enthusiastic parents and caregivers. In fact, we’ve heard many wonderful stories of parents attending family bookmaking events, poetry nights, parent/child book groups, and even literacy seminars. Unfortunately, though, that interest isn’t seen in every town or even at the majority of events within a town. They have experienced mixed results when using incentives like dinners, free books, and even raffle prizes. Occasionally these offerings draw families who haven’t often attended school events. At other times, however, the incentives fall flat, and the coordinators are back at square one brainstorming new solutions.
In many cases, the restrictions to attendance have little to do with disinterest in the children or the school. Many parents work long, strenuous hours, struggle to find the extra time or coverage at work to attend the event, lack transportation to reliably bring their family to the school, or may feel uncomfortable in a school setting or at a literacy-based event. How can we help these families take full advantage of what is being offered in their communities?
If you are a parent, tell us what helps motivate you to attend events at your child’s school, especially when you feel strapped for time and energy. If you were challenged with finding adequate transportation or childcare, for example, what would be incentive enough for you to work around those obstacles in order to attend a school event? Would the offer of dinner make that effort worthwhile? Or the chance to see a storytelling presentation? Win a door prize? Eat ice cream with your children? What events would you be more likely to attend – book giveaways, talent shows, poetry nights, book clubs, or something else creative and interesting?
Likewise, if you are an educator or school administrator, we’d love to hear your own lessons learned. Have you faced this barrier in your school, and, if so, what are some of your successful solutions?
Please leave any suggestions in the comment boxes below. We look forward to hearing your stories!