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Family Resources for Supporting Children's Reading at Home

April 2020

We are social beings. We need each other. And our students need us more than ever.

We've seen the social media – and caregivers who would never choose to homeschool their children–suddenly thrown into the role of classroom teacher, sharing their frustration in humorous memes. They often lament their unruly students, reflect their exasperation with lesson plans and schedules, and voice the critical nature of coffee at this point in their lives. The struggle is real. It's even difficult for teachers; they teach their students online and their own children at home. But at least they were trained to teach, while most parents were not!

State education departments, school districts, administrators, teachers, and parents are doing their best to ensure that students continue learning during this very challenging time. In addition, the CDC recognizes that emotional and mental health is incredibly important right now, not just for children, but for entire families, and they provide some resources for dealing with stress. It is critical that we address student learning while maintaining the emotional and mental well-being of our families.

At REL Southeast we wanted to respond to the needs of families–the need for fun, low-stress activities that promote learning. So, we thought about resources that were already in development for teachers that we could quickly re-purpose for parents, and Supporting Your Child's Reading at Home was born. This resource is targeted to parents and caregivers with the aim of providing them with activities they can do with children that support the development of foundational reading skills at home. The activities are easy to understand, with explicit directions, so that anyone–parents, older siblings, grandparents, foster families, mentors, and other caregivers – can support reading development with young learners. Activities include talking with children while reading to develop oral language, playing games with letters, sounds, and syllables, and providing opportunities for children to recognize and write words. The activities are divided by grade level, but parents and caregivers may choose those that are most appropriate for their children. The objective is to provide fun opportunities for children to practice foundational reading skills, not to frustrate them or anyone else in their families.

reading at home together

The components of Supporting Your Child's Reading at Home are as follows:

  1. Grade level activities for kindergarten and first grade students. Second and third grade will be added soon.
  2. A toolbar that provides an introduction and four recommendations related to foundational reading skills. Clicking on the introduction or recommendation on the toolbar brings up the related information and activities.
  3. Detailed descriptions of the activities.
  4. Videos that depict families engaging in the activities in their home with key points of the video highlighted for families.
  5. PDFs with any materials needed for the activities and directions on how to conduct them.

The goal of these activities is to promote learning and to enhance relationships with children. Please note that while the activities are accessed online, they are not meant to be completed online. This means that no additional screen time is required which, until this crisis, we had all been warned to limit for young children. The videos are meant to be viewed by parents and caregivers to give them an idea of what the activity might look like while being conducted outside of school. They may be viewed on a computer, tablet, or on a smart phone.

Parents and caregivers have always faced incredible challenges. They do their very best to meet the needs of their children with limited time, money, and patience. They are torn in a thousand different directions with responsibilities at work, home, school, etc. They hope and pray that they don't mess up the precious little people that were placed in their charge. Now, the pressure seems greater than ever. Some are working from home, and others wish they were working from home, but instead have no job. Still others are essential workers who find themselves exposed to a virus that currently has no cure, and they hope they don't bring it home to other family members. Some are concerned for the well-being of their own parents and grandparents who may live close by and others are worried for family members who live far away. And now they are teachers, perhaps feeling incredibly inadequate for the task at hand. Isolated with their little ones who know all of the right buttons to push to drive them crazy and make them laugh all at the same time. Thus, the humorous, yet poignant memes.

We know this time will pass, but the year 2020 is already one for the history books. A year of sadness for many, and uncertainty for all. So…we encourage parents and caregivers to curl up on the couch with their little ones. Read about spiders and snakes and learn the names of dinosaurs together. Talk about the princesses and heroines in the stories they read. Play games with letters and clap syllables. Enjoy one another and continue the learning. We hope some of the stories that will be told years from now will recount the closeness of families that developed in 2020, when we were all stuck inside 24/7, laughing and learning with the ones we love most.