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School librarians engaging parental support

Updated: Oct 14, 2018

Number 3 Parental involvement in reading and research from home.

Back in October 2017 I wrote a blog entitled School librarians helping children become independent learners with parental support so when I was asked to revisit this subject I wondered what else I could write. We know that parents are the first teachers of their children so how can we harness and support this connection in order to work with the school and especially the school library in a positive way?

I have always found it interesting to talk to parents about their children's research habits especially when they are standing next to them. Many really do not want you telling their parents that there is a way to do homework without Google. We show them the online resources that are right for their children's level, and I have often wondered why the child gets annoyed. Why would children fight against using these resources? I don't think that this is about finding the information that is easy to read I think it is the reading itself that is the issue. I don't think many children these days want to spend time reading to find the answer and would far rather go on the internet and unfortunately are still cutting and pasting if they think they can get away with it. This, I agree, is a bold statement so I wanted to explain how I got to this conclusion.

I had an interesting lesson the other day with a group of year 6 children (10-11 yr olds) where my remit was to teach them note taking. I had already worked with this same group the year before teaching the same skill. One thing I find very frustrating in my job is that I am parachuted into a class to teach a skill and if it is not reinforced by the teacher after I am gone I know that children will not remember. Understandably they did struggle to remember the previous lesson so we again talked about why note taking is important and why we need to read before you can start to make notes. I find that whenever I do a note taking lesson pencils are already in hand before they have even read the first line. I like to tell them to put their pencils down and read for 5 mins before I allow them to start to writing anything.

I wanted to make this lesson a little different from last time as I had already used Cops and Robbers, magpie-ing from other students and listening to videos, whilst writing notes. I decided to keep it simple, finding an article linked to their topic on Britannica online and another from Q-Files. These two articles were similar but included extra pieces of information so I chose to use the Britannica one first as it was slightly longer and used it as a comprehension type exercise. To make sure they had all read the article we read it together as a class and then they had to, not only answer each question, but also underline in the passage where they found it. This was to make sure that those children who would already know the answers did look at the passage again. I added a couple of words that I knew they would not know the explanation and made them use a dictionary.

Keeping it simple, all the answers were in order throughout the passage and after a bumpy start they did begin to read and look for the answers. The second article from Q-Files was much shorter and once they were finished I got them to read it themselves and write down what they could find that they had not already answered. This allowed the children who were quicker to move on (differentiation). The last task was for them to use one of the books in the classroom that had been loaned from their own school library or from Schools' Library Service (SLS) to use the the index to see if they could find more information. (Interestingly when I asked the teacher about the books from SLS she said she hadn't seen any so I went to the school library and borrowed everything they had on the subject and took them with me to the lesson. When I got there she had also found the box of books from SLS. I wonder if these resources would have remained unused if I had not been part of this lesson.)

Watching this class work through the exercise was really interesting. They did start to read and enjoyed looking for the answers. The final section was to put everything that they had answered in the questions, the extra from Q-files and from the book together in a paragraph. Finishing with a reference to Britannica, Q-Files and the book that they had used. Not every child got that far but this was left for the teacher to finish off in the next lesson.

Here is the lesson plan and work sheet incase you are interested.

So what has all this got to do with parents and children reading? Firstly, having seen from the exercise above, when children are encouraged to read with purpose and support they actually don't mind doing it. Secondly, we know that if our children are encouraged to read from an early age they will find it easier to read once they are at school. Parents have a huge role to play in encouraging children, not only to read but use the resources provided by school. Most parents want to help but they can only do this if we can tell them what is available and demonstrate how to get to them. I know from experience that your children don't always listen to you and will go off and search the internet. Being ready for that 'I can't find anything' moment when you can step in and say 'have you looked at the resources the librarian told me about the other day?' is giving control back to the parents. We can't blame them if we do not give them the tools to help.

This is why it is important for school librarians to be at every parents evening, if they can be, in order to talk to parents whilst they are waiting to see their children's teacher. It is one of the few occasions that most parents turn up so we have a captive audience. We know that if you put on a specific event for parents on reading or research the parents that turn up are the ones that are doing this anyway so choosing what you put your time and effort to is important. I have never had a parent say to me that they don't want the information I am giving them because they would rather their children struggled.

Why do we do this? From this one to one interaction with the school librarian we have seen an increase in use of our online resources after parents evenings. Students, using quality resources for their projects is all the evidence we need that shows that parents can help their own children if we can find a way to talk to them.

How do you support parents in your schools?

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