As an educator, you know that children will do better in school if families are involved with school events, have positive relationships with teachers, and assist with homework assignments. Family engagement events, such as parent-teacher conferences, game nights, and family workshops, are all great ways to get families involved, but have you ever thought of what else you could do to promote family engagement?
Encouraging families to volunteer with their kids to improve the school or classroom is an often overlooked method of promoting family engagement. Volunteering takes family engagement a step further by giving parents and children a common cause to work for together, while also showing children that their families value education. The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering states that families and children volunteering together to improve the school can motivate children "to work harder, both during and after the school day."
Here are a few ideas from the book that you can use to encourage families to volunteer with their kids throughout the school year:
- Start a volunteer club for your school or classroom and come up with a variety of projects that enable children and parents to work together. A few project ideas include collecting food items from friends and neighbors to donate to a local food pantry, making get-well cards for hospital patients, and organizing a family talent show at a nearby nursing home.
- Choose a charity for your classroom or school to adopt. This will provide plenty of service-learning opportunities for children and families. You can also incorporate the charity into lesson plans. If the charitable cause is to raise enough money to provide water for people in a third world country, plan on children learning about the country's location, history, and culture.
- Ask children and families to work together to donate books and other school supplies to a school or low-income child care facility with fewer resources in your community.
- Encourage families to do more than attend PTA events with their children. Parents and kids can volunteer together to work a booth at the school carnival, bake or sell sweets for a bake sale, or collect items for a book or food drive.
For other volunteering ideas you can suggest to the families of the children in your care, read The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering. This book would also be a great resource to include in your school or center's parent resource area.