Building Common Ground • Parents & Caregivers

Our topic for this lesson is parents and caregivers. Partnership with parents and caregivers through the school library program build a positive way to connect with families which is often a goal across the school. We'll examine library resources for use at home, supporting independent reading, parent volunteers and digital citizenship. So starting with library resources for use at home. One way to begin in this outreach is providing parent resources in the library, and even if you don't have books particularly for parents, you might consider check out privileges for parents and caregivers. Working with your principal, of course, to determine when check outs or browsing are permissible.

Utilize those parents to learn about the students in addition to working with the students directly, of course. What books do they like? In what formats? What devises are they using? What would be helpful to borrow? What languages are we needing in terms of collection development? What do parents want to know about databases or e-readers or online searching? Some topics that might be helpful in connecting parents with resources, you can point them to, maybe to the library website or college and career, health, consumer information for children, jobs for teens, and events in community, and these are in addition to the academic resources that you're developing in collaboration with curricular areas. With parents, you can also support students' independent reading. You might provide workshops, perhaps a parents' section on your website, and also you can use your connection with parents to model different ways to scaffold students' reading development, maybe through videos on the website, for instance. How to ask questions about what students are reading might be one topic, or reading aloud.

You can introduce parents to genres, authors, formats, and have some conversations about the pleasures of reading, reading for different purposes, the importance of allowing students to choose materials that they like, for instance, versus having to read something for an assignment, talking about different reading strategies for each, and even assuring parents that it's okay and a good thing to read aloud to their children, even when students are independent readers. This was something I came across often when I was a first grade teacher. Once the children could read independently, sometimes parents seem to want to stop reading aloud, and yet, we want parents to read aloud with children as old as the children might be and still listen even through middle school or high school, because it's an important relationship to build across the parent and the child as well as an important way to share stories and model good reading habits.

In terms of parent volunteers, a different way to connect with families at your school, here's a thinking exercise for you. You might want to think about this and even pause our instruction. What are some tasks that a parent, as a clerical volunteer, might do for you in the library space? And what are some activities that a parent might be able to do for you if they took the task home? Think about those.

And now that you're back, I ask you to look at both of those, because parents often want to be involved in their child's education at school, but depending on jobs and family commitments, they may not be able to spend school hours, so when you think about volunteer opportunities, consider not only those opportunities like organizing library forms, checking shelves, re-shelving books, or looking for missing items, but also things like processing magazines, repairing books, preparing lesson materials, especially at the primary levels that you might be able to assemble in a little kit and send home, so that you get the benefit of the volunteer support and the parent gets to contribute on their time.

Think about what you might need to get a parent volunteer program off the ground. Look at what permissions are required, either from your school, or from the state. You might consider having a volunteer chair to organize, so once you've worked with your school principal to set up a volunteer framework, perhaps the key person or appoint person will help with some of the details so that you don't have to work on all of the contacting and schedules and things like that. There will be some initial work of course to set up training, but I think if you consider the long term benefits of having parent volunteers, you're addressing the home school connection a positive way, and getting some of the clerical things done in the libraries that you can focus on teaching and student learning.

Finally, one more way to connect with families and caregivers, is through your expertise in digital citizenship. This might be a topic for collaboration with technology teachers, the school counselor, perhaps the parent-teacher organization, maybe even through a program where assembly with the local police can teach parents your expectations for students' demonstration of compassion and civility online. You can model appropriate comments, posting and photo sharing, and provide examples of school-focused sharing of student work processes, apps for learning, and positive uses of technology and digital interactions. Through digital citizenship, parent volunteer programs, supporting students' independent reading, and ultimately, connecting library resources with learning and information use at home, you can make some positive partnerships through parent and caregiver relationships.

MLA Citation Morris, Rebecca J. "Building Common Ground: Parents & Caregivers ." School Library Connection, September 2015,

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Entry ID: 1980852

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