8 Building home–school reading partnerships
Regular opportunities to engage and support parents and families in nurturing Reading for Pleasure need to be offered. The chance to come and read with children in a #BookNic – a reading picnic – as pictured in Figure 5 at Carglaze Primary School in Cornwall, or join in regular ‘Reading Together’ sessions, in person or virtually, are invaluable. Such non-threatening, relaxed contexts can trigger informal, reading-related conversations between parents and children, and between teachers, teaching assistants and parents. You will want to build in time and space to model the power and pleasure that comes from sharing stories, from making connections and will want to welcome the laughter, surprise, shock and other emotions that will arise. These will signal the highly social and affective nature of reading and are worth highlighting to parents.
Creating shared social spaces in which adult and child readers interact, can help parents become more involved with their children’s reading in a manner which supports pleasurable engagement. You could offer ‘Boys and Biscuits’ sessions to engage dads, a half-hour online bedtime story, invite parents to join you in making reading dens with their children (in school and at home), or create Families’ Reading Histories – large collages of significant texts that each family member recalls. The children could even interview their grandparents to find out about a text they remember enjoying in order to add to the collage.
These ideas and the list of shared reading spaces noted in Activity 4 below, all offer opportunities for parents, children and teachers to gather together informally around reading. There is no hidden school agenda to ‘teach’ the parents, but instead an authentic and open attitude is in evidence.
Activity 4 Developing a shared reading space
Choose one of the examples of the shared reading spaces listed below that intrigues you. Read it and make a few notes in relation to the following prompts.
- What underpinning principles of involving children and parents were in evidence?
- Were children’s and parents’ views sought and if so in what ways?
Class partnership reading spaces
Wider school partnership reading spaces
Each parent–teacher–child shared reading space will be unique, shaped by those involved. Letting the young readers lead and make their own choices about where to sit or how to make their den will help, as will keeping the experience fairly low key. This will enable parents to feel relaxed and not put on the spot.
Providing opportunities to read, listen and talk informally with their own child and others is another key principle of shared reading spaces that successfully support readers. The texts themselves will also impact upon the space created, so be sure there are enough texts to tempt everyone involved in the pop up picnic or blind book tasting. Such spaces can create a sense of collegiality, belonging and mutual engagement, as well as increased interaction amongst children, families, and staff. Do involve your local library staff as well, since being a library member is one way to enhance text access, as discussed in the next section.