I’ve just returned from a 2-week California vacation with my kids and husband. We had an incredible time swimming, exploring the beaches, spending a few days at Disneyland, and going on a whale-watching cruise in the Pacific. We built huge sand castles, rode in speedy golf carts, splashed in fancy fountains, and decided that the Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker was not only our new favorite sea creature, but also our new favorite insult!
Along the way, we had a lot of time for reading. We read on planes, in cars, and on shuttle buses. We took books to the beach and to the pool. Best of all, we ended many days reading aloud together, cuddled up by our fireplace in a pile of pillows and blankets, the sound of waves on the shore drifting in from our patio.
And yet, the whole time we were enjoying vacation, I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind. It was not at all alleviated by the nearly constant reminders from friends on Facebook, administrators on email, or neighbors on Nextdoor that September was just around the corner. During the almost 6-hour plane ride home from LAX to Philadelphia, I managed to both read aloud Kate DiCamillo’s Flora and Ulysses AND make a list of tasks we have just got to get done in the next 2 weeks! (Holy Bagumba!)
Is it possible that in just a few short weeks, my kids will be Back To School?
While there are many preparations to make for the fall, one thing I am most excited about is getting to know my kids’ new teachers. No matter what grade your children are entering (mine are going into K, 1st and 4th this year), I highly recommend developing a solid line of communication with their teachers.
Teachers are busier than ever these days, but I like to think that the technological advances of recent years make it much more convenient – for you and them – to keep in touch. With that in mind, here are my #raisingreaders recommendations for solid parent-teacher teamwork!
Be Pro-active: When I get my kids’ class assignments, I like to put their email addresses straight into my contacts. I send an introductory email that lists all my contact info and lets the teacher know my communication preferences (text, email, or phone call).
Respect your teacher’s time and preferences: I promise to keep the teacher informed about my child’s life – especially those things that can affect school performance, like death in the family, illness, worries and even vacations – with very BRIEF and timely notes. I ask if s/he’d prefer these to be email, text, or written “the old fashioned way.” Some teachers don’t mind making a call to a parent in the evening. Others will check email and reply before class starts each morning.
Know the guidelines: I ask for the teacher’s policies on reading and homework. Is s/he expecting that each student read 15 minutes a night? 20? Does s/he allow some flexibility based on after-school activities? Does s/he offer extra credit?
Help them help you: With 20+ kids/class, it can take some time for teachers to get a strong bead on each child’s abilities and interests. Since the teacher is helping to assign “just right books” and direct your child’s reading choices in the classroom and library, you want him/her to have an accurate impression of the student’s abilities and interests from day 1. I’ve found that by communicating these early on, not only is my child getting the most out of her reading time, she is also NOT BORED. And heaven knows you don’t want a bored kid of mine in your classroom. Nothing good can come of that.
Give the teacher a quick portrait of the progress your child has made during the summer. For example: “Mr. Goodlearning may have told you that Jill was reading beginner chapter books at the end of the last school year. Over the summer, she has become an avid reader of Rainbow Fairy and Magic Treehouse books. She still has some trouble decoding words with uncommon spellings. Jill went to the aquarium twice this summer and is really interested in sharks and whales.”
For a reluctant reader, ask the teacher if s/he has suggestions to get your student excited about reading: maybe a competition with classmates, a reward system, or high interest books. Encouragement from a teacher goes a long way to build a reader’s confidence. It’s great if the teacher can pull a reluctant reader aside with a hand-picked book. For example “Ms. Brilliant mentioned to me how talented you are in art class! I found this book of short stories about famous artists just for you. ”
Keep up the good work: Don’t let reading during school hours be a substitute for reading together at home! Your child gets so much out of reading time with you!
Comments? Questions? Ideas? Let me know how you build the communication necessary for a great parent-teacher team.