You can only teach young children so much during the school day, which is why partnering with parents to ensure concepts and skills are reinforced at home is so essential to children's learning. This is especially true for early reading and literacy skills. If young children don't have positive reading experiences and access to books at home, they're less likely to enjoy reading and more likely to have challenges with reading and other literacy skills.

The first step to encouraging parents to read to their children is making sure they understand why it’s important. Check out the graphic below for ideas on how you can answer a parent’s question of why they should read to their child.

In Literacy for All Young Learners, Mary Renck Jalongo, PhD, provides simple-to-use strategies for supporting literacy learning across a range of abilities and backgrounds. Here is one of the strategies she shares for encouraging parents to read to their children:

Use Book Packs to Bring Books into Homes

Book packs are circulated to children, parents, and families as a type of miniature lending library that supports reading aloud at home. An assortment of developmentally appropriate books and related activities are included in the book pack. With many households lacking suitable reading materials for young children, sending book packs home with children is a great way to provide families with appropriate children's books and suggestions for reading aloud at home.

The first thing you need to do when making book packs is determine what you'll use as a container to transport the materials between school and home. Many teachers love to send home materials in our clear, lightweight vinyl backpacks (available for purchase individually or as a set of 10). Tote bags with zippered tops, heavy-duty ziplock plastic bags, and large lunchboxes are three other ideas for possible containers. Just remember that the container you choose needs to close tightly, be sturdy and easy to clean, and be something that children can easily carry.  

The next step is to choose which children’s books to include in the book packs. Look through your collection of books, and choose four to six books for each pack. Make sure the books are at different reading levels. You can choose to categorize the book packs by theme, by a particular skill, or by story character. Paperback books (gently used ones will work fine) would probably be best to include in the packs.

Once you have the container(s) and books prepared, create the following items to include in the pack:

  • A Brief Note to Introduce the Books to Parents and Children – State the purpose of the book pack and explain what children will learn. Make sure the note is easy to read and error-free. It may need to be translated into another language for some families. The note you write also provides you an opportunity to build motivation to complete the activities and describe the use and care of the materials.
  • An Inventory Card Listing the Book Pack's Contents – Use the inventory card to keep track of what each pack contains, and update it as needed. The inventory card also serves as a checklist to help families remember what books should be returned.
  • Interactive Activities – Make sure the pack includes simple games to play, pictures to color and label, letter trace-and-write sheets, and props that can be used to retell the story. A small whiteboard and washable marker or different types of writing paper and crayons and pencils would also be good literacy materials to add.
  • A Simple Evaluation Tool – The evaluation slip you provide should have sections for both the parent and the child to rate how they liked the books. Be sure to ask the parents/families for any suggestions they have to improve the book pack.

Share how you’re encouraging parents to read to their children in the comment section below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Check out Literacy for All Young Learners for additional strategies on helping children from preschool through third grade develop literacy skills.

Check back on Wednesday for the second part of this two-part series!