How can we help children in Kansas City be successful readers? It’s a loaded question. Some say early literacy intervention and kindergarten readiness are the most important factors to help our students. Others suggest that we need to look at larger issues, like poverty, high mobility rates of students in the school district, or changing instructional methods in order to teach our students more effectively. The truth is, all of these opinions are extremely important factors to consider when addressing this issue. Here at Literacy KC, we address a factor that is often left out of the conversation: parent involvement.
In a 2014 study, researchers from the University of North Carolina determined that the most important influence on reading performance was the size of the home library, followed by the parent’s occupational status and the parent’s educational background (Evans, Kelley, Sikora, 2014). Our two big takeaways from this study were to get high quality literature into the hands of Kansas City kids and to inspire parents to get more involved in their child’s education. Thus, Let’s Read was born.
Let’s Read is a new kind of Family Reading Program. Through culturally-rich and award winning literature, we teach parents reading strategies and interventions that they can do with their kids at home. Let’s Read meets weekly for one hour, and is led by an instructor and a team of trained tutors. Each session has a central theme that is important in building literacy such as Imagine, Play, Talk, Sing and Grow, and we hand pick literature and a craft that embody the theme. While children are engaged in the craft, the instructor leads a facilitated discussion with the parents about strategies on how to support children as readers. This gives them a safe space to debrief with each other, as well as talk about their own educational and career goals. Through this comprehensive approach, it is our goal that families build a tradition of literacy in the home.
Since the program’s launch in January, we’ve facilitated 172 hours of family reading and given away 140 books. What’s so exciting about this program is that parents are not only encouraged to read more with their children at home, but they feel empowered to get more involved with their children’s school as well. One mother even claimed that because of this program, she wants to get involved in her school’s PTA, so that she can make real changes in the education system.
Let’s Read is currently at one pilot site, and will be fully launching at 5 sites this May.