Sunday, May 3, 2009

Networking with People Who Love Reading

I love talking with all kinds of people that have an appreciation for reading as a tool for life and those who are interested in getting kids and families excited about reading, writing, listening and communicating! Today I just had to share my enthusiasm for an event sponsored in beautiful Minneapolis, MN by the International Reading Association (IRA) - their annual conference! I'm already there!

IRA is a place to me where all those interested in children's and family literacy can come together. I noticed in the program that tomorrow is actually considered a Special Teacher Professional Development AND Parent Day. What a great combination!

Why is that partnership so important?

Neither teachers nor parents can be as effective in influencing the children in their lives alone as they can be when they work as partners.

There are plenty of misunderstandings, mistrust and perhaps even potential hostility between families and educators but it doesn't have to be that way if both of you are focusing on the child AND recognize and celebrate each of the strengths you bring to the reading table.

Partnering over a common goal like building enthusiasm and interest in reading lowers so many of the barriers we inadventently put up between teacher and family.

Teachers: don't use that "eudcationese" when talking with families. Understand their family literacy and search for ways to connect that to the academic literacy you teach.

Parents: respect teachers for the things they know that you don't but ask that they give you meaningful ideas for promoting reading when the kids are out of school (without turning the home into an academic hothouse).

When more than one person is involved in promoting literacy with kids, they get the idea that "hey, maybe this is important".

How do you do it?

Teachers, focus on teaching the skills but never forget to let your students in on the secret of what reading is really all about (and adding motivation when you can).

Parents, focus on helping your child see reading and writing as tools for life. Integrate what you do and say about reading into everyday life (writing grocery lists, reading instructional manuals, sharing the reading you have to do with your children and asking for their help in understanding what you have to read if you need that, sharing the latest sports or celebrity article, etc.

I challenge everyone who reads this blog today to share it with one teacher and one family member who has a child who is reading (or getting ready to read). Together we can make a big difference, one child at a time, one book at a time, one experience, one conversation at a time.

Look for my new website, coming live in the next few days!