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What About Moms and Dads? The role of parents in children’s academic achievement by Donna DiFillippo, Executive Director, Raising A Reader MA
The academic achievement of children is of great and persistent concern to all Americans. There are many people offering solutions ranging from the establishment of charter schools, to reforms in student assessment, to differentiated instruction and tutoring at home and at school.
These are valuable interventions to address the academic achievement gap, but they do not address the research that has shown family participation in education is twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. The most effective forms of parent involvement are those that engage parents in working directly with their children on learning activities. Examples range from families and children reading books together (at all ages), to parent involvement as chaperones or hosts at school field trips, to devising fun, at-home strategies to help parents reinforce classroom or tutoring lessons (e.g. using routine cooking or shopping activities to reinforce math concepts).
Providing meaningful opportunities to engage parents in their children’s education can be difficult. Cultural, economic, and social barriers may seem insurmountable. And time is a precious commodity – whether it is a parent concerned about using her precious free time with her child for schoolwork instead of play, or a teacher or tutor who finds it difficult to both create and then teach parents individualized strategies for reinforcing their child’s learning at home. Raising A Reader MA, however, has a quietly effective solution to the problem – engaging parents in understanding their role as their children’s first teachers before school ever begins.
Raising A Reader MA, part of a national network delivering evidence-based early literacy services to 118,000 young children and families annually, helps families strengthen the culture of reading at home. In addition to our signature red bag book rotation program, Raising A Reader MA provides easily accessible, multi-lingual parent education that raises awareness of the critical role parents’ play in supporting their children’s academic success, starting from birth. Through partnerships with centers of early and adult education, faith based and community programs, and other agencies working closely with parents, we offer hands-on workshops that teach simple, interactive reading strategies so parents can develop, practice, and maintain the habit of sharing books with their young children. Workshops are presented by our bi-lingual staff or experienced parent leaders in familiar community settings and affirm parents’ role as their child’s first teacher. Parents develop the confidence in the positive influence they have on their children’s education – long before school begins.
While our work is effective, it is not by any means exhaustive. Even if every child and family in America had access to Raising A Reader MA, there would still be a need for tutoring – whether it be for remedial support to keep students on pace with their peers in a particular grade or subject, or to help eager students advance their knowledge and understanding at a pace that works for them.
So the question is: given the relationship between family engagement and student academic success, how can tutoring programs and services better engage moms and dads in supporting their children’s learning goals? We’re doing it by circulating high quality children’s literature at home and offering workshops and other supports to help parents of young children strengthen the culture of reading at home long before school begins. Are you a tutor? How are you engaging parents in supporting the tutoring needs of their students? And parents, what do you wish your tutoring was preparing you to do to help maximize your child’s potential?
Raising A Reader MA is closing the academic achievement gap by helping families of young children living in vulnerable communities develop, practice and maintain habits of reading together at home. Learn more about their work, which both increases access to books and offers parents workshops and other support for strengthening the culture of reading at home, on their website, www.raisingareaderma.org