By Teachers, For Teachers
In recent years, there has been quite a rise in family literacy nights in the public school system. A family literacy night is when a school puts on an evening of fun activities that encourages community literacy. It’s essentially a fun way to for schools to give parents and their children a time and place to read, write, learn, and share ideas with experienced teachers. You may be wondering why there has been a rise in these types of activities. The reason is simple: They empower parents to promote literacy at home, as well as help parents learn teaching strategies that can help their children succeed in school. In addition to that, they are also a great way to build a family/school connection where families support the school all while building school spirit. Here are a few teaching strategies on how to run a successful family literacy night in your school.
This school-wide event is typically based upon one theme and is open to parents, students, and their extended families. There are usually reading games and activities, as well as tips on how parents can support reading at home, such as keeping a library, sharing stories, reading together, or creating some quiet time.
When you begin planning, the first thing that you must do is decide upon a theme. Usually there is a school-wide theme that teachers stick to, but sometimes school districts allow each individual class to determine their own theme. If your literacy night is in the month of October, your theme can be “Autumn” or “Halloween.” You can decorate with black cats and witches, read scary stories, and have students and their families partake in October-themed activities. Another idea is to choose a random fun theme like “Camping under the stars” or “Reading Olympics.” These popular themes are great because there are so many fun things that you can do with them. For example, if you choose the camping theme, you can build a fake fire and have students read stories around the campfire and eat S’mores. If you choose the Olympic theme, you can have families partake in fun sport-related events. Here are a few more fun-themed ideas you can choose from.
Once you have chosen your theme, it’s now time to plan the activities and send out the invitations. Some fun activity ideas that can go with just about any theme are scavenger hunts, storytelling, dressing up as characters from a book, or acting in a skit, to name a few.
The last thing that you need to do is to figure out how you will structure the event. You can have everything in the school gymnasium or auditorium, or you can have theme-related events in different areas of the school. How you want to set it up is up to you and your school.
Getting parents to attend any after-school extracurricular event can be a challenge. From carting their children to cheerleading and football to having to work late or tend to their other children’s activities, in today’s world, parents have very busy schedules. Here are some tips on how you can get them to attend your event.
The first thing that you can do to get them to come to literacy night is to offer them an incentive. Hold a basket raffle, stage a scavenger hunt, or sell off some baked goods. Ask a local company to sponsor the event and offer some irresistible door prizes. Another fun way to get people to your event is to invite a local celebrity to read a book to the children. If your town is full of basketball fans, then you can invite a popular athlete to come and read for an hour.
Send home an eye-catching announcement, have the PTA use an automated phone announcement reminding parents of the event, and put up signs and posters everywhere around the school and community.
The date and time that you choose will determine if people will attend or not. Many people work until 5 or 6 p.m., then they have to make dinner, so choose a time when parents are able to attend and still get home to put their children to bed at a reasonable hour. Also, try to choose a day that does not conflict with other school-related events. If you choose the same night as school concert or football game, then you will miss all of those students and parents.
Make sure that parents walk away from this event with knowledge in their back pocket. Many parents know their children should read more, but are unsure on how to make it happen. So make sure that you provide parents with a take-home packet that is filled with tips and strategies that will promote reading at home.
Do you have a family literacy night at your school? What is your favorite theme and activities for the event? Please share your teaching strategies with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do in your school district.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.