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Involve the family in reading projects

December 06, 2013 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy
PAG 25
Illustration from The Clever Woman by Herbert Puchta. Illustrated by Marzia Sanfilippo. © Helbling Languages

Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends play an important role in our students' reading education and experience. Bedtime stories, family stories, reading the news or newspaper articles together are all memorable moments  in our lives, and they shape our attitudes towards reading. In upper-elementary and secondary schools we are often past the time of bedtime stories, but other reading occasions can take their place and work very well as cooperative learning situations. And you never know, you might inspire some parents to spend more time reading to their smaller children in the future.

Killian Mullan explains in a study that reading parents are excellent role models as when they are reading, they are modelling enjoyment, enthusiasm or interest in reading and they encourage young people to read for pleasure. She adds that "a qualitative study of teenagers’ reading, for example, found that young people who choose to read as a form of recreation shared a love of reading with other family members (Strommen & Mates, 2004)."  I believe that reading children and teens can become excellent role models as well, and they can inspire their parents to read more with them.

Here are some ideas for you to engage parents and other family members and encourage them to help you with your students' reading development.

1 Communicate with the parents. 

This can happen in the form of teacher-parent meetings, or you can send out a friendly letter or e-mail to the parents to inform them about the reading programs you are planning to follow. Of course you can tell them  that you are not asking them to monitor how much time their children spend reading. You might find parents who do not have enough time to sit down and read with their children. These parents can help a lot by showing interest by asking engaging questions about what stories their children are reading at the moment, and they can praise them, and show interest in reviews and opinions.

You can explain in your letter that reading for fun in a foreign language is beneficial in several ways. Use our blog posts to learn more about the benefits of reading:

2 Organise reading and book events

Holiday season is a great time to oraganise a reading event for all the family. Some of these events work well with younger learners, but teens will enjoy book swaps and family Book Club meetings just as much as the younger ones.

  • Christmas book swap: Bring your favourite books to an afternoon meeting and recommend and swap books for the holidays.
  • Family Book Club meeting: Invite a member of your family to your Book Club. Organise a special meeting with biscuits and tea, and chat about favourite reading experiences, reading habits, favourite books and film adaptations. You can also use our Reading Games at these sessions.
  • Reading afternoon: Organise a reading afternoon with your younger learners. Ask the parents to take part in reading aloud sessions, and discuss what you are reading. This event also serves as a type of training for parents to show them how they can use engaging questions to talk about the text and the illustrations, and how they can use questions to reflect on the story. Ask your students to translate any word or explain the text in the own language to their parents.
  • Reading marathon: This is a bigger project and we will be posting tips on how to organize your own reading marathon in the New Year.

If you don't have enough time to organise these events before the holidays, plan them for January. They will be motivating and fun activities for the New Year. These smaller events can draw attention to the importance of reading and motivate parents to sustain interest and involvement in their children's reading progress.

3 Family reading projects

We might think that it is difficult if the students do not speak English well enough. However, this can be a great advantage and parents can brush up their English or learn new vocabulary. Both young learners and teens can take their illustrated readers home to share with their families. It is a friendly homework assignment to encourage your students to read aloud to their parents, grandparents, brothers or sisters. Use our Reading Timers and ask them to complete at least three clocks in a month. This might sound like something easy to achieve, but it will guarantee success. Reading together 30 minutes a week can turn into an amazing habit in the family.

4 Encourage book discussions

Young learners are more likely to enjoy reading to their parents, and teens tend to like discussions more. From early childhood it is important to take time to reflect on the text and the illustrations during bedtime reading sessions. 'What, where, why, how' and other comprehension questions will help children become more critical readers. Encourage your teen students to take home their readers and ask their parents if they know anything about them. You can also provide them with discussion points. Talking about what we read is just as important as reading itself.

5 Book presents

In our Arts and Crafts Activities for your Book Club blog post we offer fun workshop ideas to do with books. Have a lesson or a Book Club meeting when you prepare book presents for the family. It is a nice reminder for the parents and it might encourage them to read a little bit more.


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