How to promote family engagement during distance learning

30 Days of Families Learning Together tool offers literacy-boosting strategies that can be passed along to parents

Distance learning imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging, but it also can bring different opportunities for family engagement under Section 1116(a)(2)(C) of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Pub. L. No. 114-95.

The National Center for Families Learning developed a tool called 30 Days of Families Learning Together that has been successfully used by the Statewide Family Engagement Center in Arizona as a set of strategies parents can use with their families to increase literacy.

Kim Whitley, site coordinator with Arizona’s Statewide Family Engagement Center, which serves parents from Blue Ridge Elementary School in Pinetop-Lakeside, Ariz., says the 30 Days of Families Learning Together tool has helped students perform better at school, improve their attendance, and be more excited about being at school. The tool provides a month’s worth of fun literacy activities and practices designed to involve families. The tool is free and can be printed or used via smartphone and tablet.

During Parent Time, one of the programs offered by the Statewide Family Engagement Center, Whitley uses the tool to promote family literacy and family engagement outside the school. “We talk about good strategies for engaging children at home, and the 30 Days of Families Learning Together gives them concrete tools they can take home and use to help support the topics we are talking about in Parent Time,” she says.

Some of the strategies from the 30 Days of Families Learning Together include, for example:

– Making good nutrition decisions. Create an imaginary restaurant where the family discusses and makes decisions together about the menu.

– Reading at home. Flip through a dictionary to write down new words and their definitions, and collect those words in a word jar. At dinner, use those words to create sentences.

– Including social-emotional learning. Make gratitude posters to say thank you to the people who make a difference.

– Keeping kids active. Spend time relaxing together as a family before bedtime (or any other time) and try out a few beginner yoga poses or deep stretching.

The Family Resource Center targets underserved families at Blue Ridge Elementary, which is a Title I school located in a rural area next to an Apache reservation. The NCFL participates in the U.S. Education Department grant program’s Statewide Family Engagement Center, which is funded with ESSA Title IV, Part E funds. Section 4501 through Section 4506.

Section 4501 of ESSA provides funding for statewide training centers that provide technical assistance and training to states and local educational agencies in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.

According to Whitley, the 30 Days of Families Learning Together is helping not only the students, but their parents as well. “I had parents telling me that using this tool made them feel like better parents and that they were more confident going to the school to talk to their children’s teacher,” she says, “because they knew they were doing the right thing at home.”

Claude Bornel covers ELs and other Title I issues for ESEA Now, a DA sister publication. Documents noted above are available to ESEA Now subscribers. 

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