Action Step and Orientation
L5. Facilitate communication between school and families to support language and pre-literacy development.
In this lesson, your site/campus-based leadership team will learn about planning and establishing an outreach program for your children’s families and other stakeholders.
In Part 1, you will learn about ways to lead your staff in developing positive relationships with families.
Part 2 will guide you in building a program of outreach events that supports language and pre-literacy development.
To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Review the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.
Part 1—Leading Your Staff in Establishing Positive Relationships with Parents and Families
Effective leaders understand that young children need a community of invested stakeholders to help them learn and develop to their greatest potential. At the foundation of this community are the relationships you form with the parents and families of the children you serve. You work together to guide children in successfully acquiring language and pre-literacy skills.
As leaders, you are the primary communicators of your site’s vision, and you set the tone for positive relationships between families and early childhood staff. A key step to achieving your vision is to communicate high expectations for staff regarding parent and family collaboration. Some guiding principles you may convey to staff include the following:
- Viewing parents and families as fellow experts in their children’s learning and development
- Establishing procedures for sharing information about children’s learning and development with parents and families
- Establishing procedures for gathering information from parents and families about home literacy practices, language(s) used at home, and children’s interests and experiences
- Using knowledge gained from school-family partnerships to plan quality care and instruction
You and your team will want to consider ways to communicate these expectations to your instructional staff. Most likely, you will need to support staff in meeting these expectations. You may need to plan professional development about communicating successfully with families and building positive relationships with them. You may also need to provide support to staff in collaborating with family members who speak a language other than English. This may include identifying staff members who can translate during meetings or events and providing resources in other languages spoken by families. The To Learn More section at the end of this lesson provides some resources for building positive relationships with parents of English learners.
“It is important to recognize, value, and build upon the different ways that families are constituted and the different ways that literacy is learned, practiced, and taught across cultural and linguistic groups.” (Mui & Anderson, 2008, p. 241)
You will also need to support staff in learning about the specific ways that they can promote children’s language and pre-literacy development through their partnerships with families. You can provide guidance in determining how information about children’s language and pre-literacy development is shared between staff and families. Consider these questions:
- How can my staff find out what their families already know about language and pre-literacy?
- How can my staff best share information about supporting language and pre-literacy development at home?
Staff members need to be knowledgeable about the language and pre-literacy practices that children bring to school and understand how to build on those home practices. Through interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and face-to-face community events, staff can gather valuable information from families while also sending the message that parents are important and valued in their child’s school learning. You and your staff will want to ask questions about the language(s) children hear and speak at home, as well as the purposes that reading and writing serve in their families and communities. This can include non-traditional forms of literacy such as storytelling, music, and play, as these support early literacy practices (Mui & Anderson, 2008; Gardner-Neblett & Iruka, 2015).
As part of your assessment system, you will need to ensure that staff track the progress children make toward language and pre-literacy goals. Part of your role as leaders is to make certain that systems are in place for regularly sharing with families this information about children’s learning and development. This can occur through family-teacher conferences or through written formats that use clear and direct language along with visuals.
Finally, as you plan specific ways that instructional staff and families can share and use important information, it can be helpful to review Lesson E6–Empowering parents and families in the Effective Instructional Framework module. This lesson provides further guidance and resources that can be used to develop trusting relationships with families, as well as specific language and pre-literacy topics that staff can share with families to support literacy at home.
In the next part of this lesson, you will explore ways to establish or enhance your outreach program.
Part 2—Planning Successful Family Outreach Events
As you learned in Part 1, successful home-school partnerships start with building positive and trusting relationships between staff and families. With this foundation in place, you can strengthen these partnerships through a community outreach program. You and your leadership team can plan events throughout the year to collaborate with families. Another goal of these events is to extend partnerships to other community members and organizations that support children’s language and pre-literacy development.
Your initial leadership team meeting provides an ideal opportunity to present ideas for outreach events and to brainstorm additional needs, opportunities, and resources. During the meeting, you can prepare an outline or a written draft showing the steps you will take to initiate your outreach program. You will need to think through the logistics of the outreach events you propose to conduct. You will need to decide when and where you can hold events and assign available team members to help with the planning and delivery of different events. Your team should also create a list of tasks that need to be completed before you have any events. Future meetings need to include time to check with your team about the status of their preparation for upcoming events.
For each outreach event, your team may also consider steps to follow up with families. One way to follow up after family events is to distribute surveys, checklists, or questionnaires to request ideas for additional outreach programs, resources, or school events the families would find helpful.
Remember, as you plan to distribute and collect information, you will need to review all content to make sure that the language is accessible to the families you serve. For written materials, avoid specialized language and keep your messages clear and direct. Use visuals in written materials whenever possible. When you meet with your team, identify school staff or community partners who can translate materials into other languages as needed for the families you serve. Finally, for face-to-face events, identify people who can translate what is being presented for those who speak a language other than English.
To promote literacy through family outreach activities, leadership teams can plan a variety of sessions featuring a range of content and areas of focus (see Lesson E6–Empowering parents and families in the Effective Instructional Framework module). When you are ready to hold each event, there are some important considerations for you and your team to take into account. This handout, “Strategies for Delivering Effective Outreach Events, ” guides you through some steps that can promote a successful event. The examples listed for each step are part of literacy training events that may be offered to families in many kinds of early childhood settings.
As you build relationships with families and the different stakeholders in your community, you expand support for the children you serve. In the next lesson of the Leadership module, you will learn more about identifying, recruiting, and partnering with community programs to strengthen your site’s outreach program.
TO LEARN MORE: The following resources will be helpful as you explore how to facilitate communication between school and families to support language and pre-literacy development:
Building Collaboration Between Schools and Parents of English Learners, Practitioner Brief includes information about transcending barriers that families of ELs encounter and creating opportunities for positive school-family relationships.
“Why Reading to Your Kids in Your Home Language Will Help Them Become Better Readers,” available on the Colorín Colorado website, provides information about how developing literacy in Spanish supports literacy in English. It includes practical tips for parents for supporting their child’s reading development in Spanish.
The Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines contains ideas for training topics for children from infancy through 48 months old. The “What you can do to support your child” tab within each developmental domain lists activities and strategies for promoting development.
Reading Rockets provides reading tips for parents.
Hanen Centre online contains early language development information that includes staff and family strategies.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in facilitating communication between your school and families to support language and pre-literacy development, you may want to consider some of the following next steps:
- Identify staff and/or community partners who are bilingual and can assist with translating written materials and live events.
- Determine areas of support needed for staff in establishing positive relationships with families and plan professional development.
- Review Lesson E6–Empowering parents and families in the Effective Instructional Framework module.
- Meet with your site-based leadership team to consider what outreach programs and resources you can provide.
- Research local organizations to locate potential partners for your outreach program.
- Develop a calendar of potential events and/or resources.
L5. Facilitate communication between school and families to support language and pre-literacy development.
With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step L5 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.
In completing your assignment with your team, the following resources and information from this lesson’s content may be useful to you:
- Refer to Part 1 for ideas on how to lead staff in establishing positive relationships with families.
- Refer to Part 2 for suggestions to begin building your program of outreach events.
Next Steps also contains suggestions that your site or campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.
To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for this lesson and follow the instructions.
Gardner-Neblett, N., & Iruka, I. U. (2015). Oral narrative skills: Explaining the language-emergent literacy link by race/ethnicity and SES. Developmental Psychology, 51, 889–904.
Mui, S., & Anderson, J. (2008). At home with the Johars: Another look at family literacy. The Reading Teacher, 62(3), 234–243.