"Although many parents read to their children daily, they often need support to extend the read-aloud beyond simply reading cover to cover."
~Michelann Parr &
Balanced Literacy Essentials: Pembroke Publishers Limited (2012)
Literacy Essentials has a wealth of tips and ideas for promoting literacy, from developing literacy workshops to "Constructive Talk”. The book also includes many picture book lists to match various themes in
the chapters. What I like best about the book is that every chapter has unique
“Home-school connection” ideas. All of
the strategies promote literacy practice, while encouraging parental
involvement and dialogue. They also inadvertently
keep parents informed of what their child is learning at school, and provide
tips for supporting their child at home.
The ideas are open enough that they can be used throughout the
year with different themes, and in many ways can replace traditional
homework. As opposed to most worksheets,
these activities are meaningful and engaging for students who are growing as
readers, writers, and thinkers.
Because I am always looking for ways to put more good
quality books into the hands and homes of my students, I was very inspired by Balanced Literacy Essentials to create home reading packages for my
kindergarten class. As pointed out on
page 80 of the book, these reading packages are separate from the “I Can Read”
beginning leveled readers I also send home.
The home reading packages I created are meant for the parent to read to the
child, and include a book (or two complimentary books), as well as a small tip
sheet that they could keep. On our first
‘Meet the Teacher’ evening, I explained how we would use the home reading
packages and gave each parent a key ring for them to add the tip sheets
to, as they collected them each week.
I spent some time sorting through my personal
library to find an assortment of good books to include. I made sure I had a variety of fiction and
non-fiction, as well as books that clearly emphasised various aspects of
comprehension such as making connections, predicting, inferring, and making
mental images. The tip sheet had simple
pointers to help the parents work on the related strategy with their child. Each tip sheet also included a ‘Math in Every
Day Life’ component, with a simple activity that complimented the text and
could usually be achieved without the need for additional props.
I used snap closure pocket folders from the
Dollar Store and numbered them. I also numbered
each book to match, in case of mix ups through the year. The tip sheets were also numbered to
match. I made them small enough that I
could fit 4 on a page to ease my photocopy load, copied them on cardstock
for durability, and then hole punched them so they could be added to the key rings. Every week or two students received a
new home reading package. I prepared
about 5 packages more than the number of students I had, in case some packages
were not returned on time. The children were always excited to receive a new package and enjoyed talking together about the books they had read.
Click here to view the index cards for my entire set of 24 Home Reading Kits.
I encourage you to make similar packages for your
class. While they do take a bit of time
to prepare, once they are made they are ready for the year. Each year after that you simply need to add newly photocopied tip sheets.
At the end of the year I surveyed parents to get their
opinion on the packages. The response
was overwhelmingly in favour of them and many said that they wished they were available
when their older children were in kindergarten. My goal with the home reading packages was
to make good quality books available to my students, and to provide parents
with simple strategies that, once they knew how to use them, they could transfer
the same strategy to other books read with their children. I also wanted to promote talk as much as
possible, and encourage families to have fun together while learning. I believe I accomplished all that and more,
and I thank the authors of Balanced Literacy Essentials for pushing me to
think more carefully about what I send home, and how best to support my
students and their families.