Children can learn to enjoy reading early in life by listening to storybooks read by parents or other caregivers. By participating in storybook reading, they learn a variety of literacy skills that prepare them for learning to read. For example, they begin to become familiar with typical story elements and with print concepts, such as directionality and how it works in our culture (reading from left to right, top to bottom). Yet one of the most heartfelt rewards when sharing reading with children is to see them begin to express their personal reactions and show their curiosity about things that are read to them (Green, Lilly, & Barrett, 2002). Having access to a variety of literacy experiences during childhood helps children begin to build interest in reading. For this reason, parents and educators should become role models and read to children to help them discover the love for reading (Moore, 2003).
Research has also shown that parents, educators, and caregivers need to be aware of the ways in which cultural background can affect family reading practices. Some books may be more difficult for English language learners because of vocabulary or culture-based content. Cultural issues may also affect families' access to books. To support parents in continuing to read to their children, educators should become familiar with the types of books children read and how to better use them to teach important comprehension/reading strategies (Green, Lilly, Barrett, 2002).
Toolkit: Reaching Out to ELL Families
For more great activity ideas, see our bilingual toolkit, filled with literacy workshops, book recommendations, and more!
Marty Izaguirre teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Okatie, South Carolina. Her elementary school holds Bilingual Family Literacy Nights, which take place after school hours every other month, and provide working parents with an opportunity to read to their children in both English and Spanish. Once parents come in, they find read-aloud circles (where teachers read books aloud to a small group), as well as areas where they can go and read with their child separately. The variety of activities provided to the parents allows them to join in an activity in which they feel comfortable. Adults and children are allowed time and space to read together. Marty Izaguirre's school also provides an opportunity for parents and children to create their own special bookmark as they enjoy some refreshments. Marty believes the events can provide parents an opportunity to meet other parents as they show their children the importance of reading.
The National Writing Project (NWP) presents a Literacy Night event where students read, write, and reconnect with their families. This article provides some guidelines on how to prepare a creative and inviting environment for a positive reading experience.
This website from PTO Today provides all the information needed to organize a successful Family Reading Night event. You can also request a Family Reading Night Kit, which includes a planning guide, posters, brochures, and many fun creative ideas to use at your event.
These parent and child programs were designed by educators at the Pennsylvania Center for the Book to be used by professionals who are training parents or caregivers to support young children's literacy learning.