Home - school partnerships

Home-school partnerships help foster literacy at home, which is vital — particularly to support priority learners, Māori and Pasifika students.

It's important parents know why reading for pleasure is important and how they can support, encourage and role model reading to their children.

Shawdow Play

image by barnabywasson


Successful home-school literacy partnerships:  common factors
How schools can help parents encourage their children to read
Parents as reading role models - especially dads
Reading Together
The power of bedtime reading
Sharing reading messages with families: ongoing communication
Useful resources for schools and parents
References and further reading

Successful home-school literacy partnerships: common factors

Schools can encourage, support and provide resources to families to develop their home literacy practice. The following elements are common to literacy programmes that succeed in engaging families:

  • An established sense of community – members of the family can offer insights for understanding  individual children, and information they can contribute to areas of study - recognising everybody has something useful to contribute
  • Teachers' effective interpersonal skills – a  welcoming manner and a tactfully expressed level of concern
  • Ongoing and varied communication – face to face, phone calls, newsletters, classroom visits
  • Consistent recruitment of family participation – through the school year, plenty of opportunities
  • The suggestion of a variety of literacy activities for the home – concrete suggestions on how to support literacy at home, keeping it natural and enjoyable rather than an extension of school
  • Teachers' understanding of family challenges – awareness, support, providing resources to help

(Neuman, Caperelli, & Kee (1998) in Summer Reading Loss by Mraz and Rasinski (2007):

Use the links on this page as starting points to develop your own approach with your school community. See also Reading at home.

How schools can help parents encourage their children to read

About 85 percent of a child’s time is spent out of school – and spending some of that time reading will help their progress in all areas of learning. Let parents know how important reading together with their children is, and encourage them to make time, space and routines for this enjoyable activity.

In 2007 Rongomai School in Auckland developed an initiative to provide bean bags to homes to create a reading place. They also provided training for parents in Pause Prompt Praise and found increased reading mileage and achievement as a result.

Although we refer to 'parents', we include members of the wider whanau - grandparents, aunties and uncles, and other family members. Reading with grandchildren can be a special time for grandparents, cementing close bonds between the generations.

Here are some ideas on how your school and school library can help parents encourage their children to read:

  • Provide easy access to reading resources. For example, relax limits on loans from the school library and allow parents to borrow books from the library for reading aloud at home.
  • Encourage families to join their local public library.
  • Promote reading through the school holidays by enabling families to borrow books from the school library for holiday reading
  • Encourage families to take part in reading events such as the summer reading challenge in their community.
  • Invite parents to book “chat”  with their children - talking together about their reading in a positive, encouraging way
  • Include "reading homework” to encourage students to read regularly each day

Find out more about the Summer Slide and Holiday Reading

Find our more about reading at home

Parents as reading role models - especially dads

Remind parents that they are important reading role models for their children, especially for boys. The key is seeing their fathers or other men in their lives read and hearing them talk about their favourite reads.

The UK National Literacy Trust has a number of great resources for schools and professionals working with literacy:

Top Tips for engaging Dads: a one-page summary of great tips

Getting the blokes on board: a free downloadable toolkit

Working with Dads: a Reading Champions scheme as a way for schools to build relationships with dads

Reading Together

The research based Reading Together programme has been running workshops successfully for many years with students from ages 5 to15. Developed for parents, children and teachers, the Reading Together programme aims to help parents support their children's reading at home more effectively.

In this video Liz Christensen of Ohaeawai School talks about the Reading Together programme at Ohaeawai School.

The power of bedtime reading

A 2010 UK survey of primary school teachers found as many as half of them were teaching children who had never been read a bedtime story.

  • Jim Trelease recommends "the three Bs" - book ownership, bookshelves and a bedside lamp, with bedtime pushed out in favour of quiet reading time
  • Bedtime stories can include an ongoing serial for older children, as well as shorter stories of all kinds for young or old. 
  • One school asked their parents "Would you like your child to have this year 50 free hours of quality one-on-one tutoring guaranteed to improve their academic progress ? Yes ? Well, 10 minutes reading each night at bedtime with your child is an hour a week, 50 hours a year…”

Sharing reading messages with families: ongoing communication

Successful partnerships require an understanding of the challenges and barriers some families face. Communicate regularly with families and emphasise the importance of keeping reading at home fun and relaxing. Include helpful, practical suggestions and resources to implement them.

Here are some practical ideas schools have used successfully to communicate with parents:

  • Holding informal conversations and meetings
  • Including snippets regularly in the school newsletter / classroom newsletter
  • Sending notes to parents in homework diaries or attached to resources such as a suggested bedtime reading book
  • Sending a letter or flyer home each term
  • Talking about reading during parent / teacher interviews
  • Using opportunities through ICT such as links on the school website, or a link for parents on the classroom blog.

Other initiatives to develop partnerships are to:

  • invite parents and other family members to come to the school to read to children, for example during Library Week or other special events
  • put up quotes about reading in places where parents as well as your staff and students will see them - in classrooms, around the school, in corridors, the foyer and staffroom
  • share with parents links to good sources of supply - including local bookshops with good knowledge and stock of children's literature, and useful websites with recommendations and reviews of books.

Useful resources for schools and parents

Set up a Parent Library in your school, and include books for parents about reading. Promote these to parents.

  • Jennings, P.(2003). The reading bug, and how you can help your child catch it. Penguin.
  • Moloney, J. (2000). Boys and Books. ABC Books.
  • Ultimate Book Guides:
    • Hahn, D. & Flynn, L. eds. (2008). The ultimate first book guide: over 500 great books for 0-7s.
      London, A & C Black.
    • Hahn, D. & Flynn, L. eds. (2004). The ultimate book guide:  over 600 great books for 8-12s. London, A & C Black.
    • Hahn, D. & Flynn, L. eds. (2006). The ultimate teen book guide, ed. London, A & C Black.
  • Fox, M. (2001). Reading magic. Pan Books.
  • Trelease, J. (2006).- The Read-aloud handbook, 6th ed.

Visit Reading at home for strategies and the National Library Services to Schools brochure 'Help your child become a reader', which is available for download in English, Māori, Samoan, Niuean, Tokelauan, Tongan and Cook Island Māori.

Guidelines for listening to children read (PDF): These guidelines have been written from the child's perspective, by Teacher-Librarian Barbara Braxton. (Used with permission)

Home-school partnerships (on TKI):  Literacy modules: TKI hosts Home-School Partnerships content for schools. The Literacy modules are designed as workshops for primary schools wanting to focus on some aspect of literacy with parents and teachers.  The range of workshops includes reading to and with children at home, from junior to senior primary.

The Supporting your child's learning section on the Ministry of Education website is a good resource to direct parents to with tips on how families can get involved in their child's reading, writing and mathematics in years 1-8 at school.

The National Literacy Trust (UK) provides information to families about reading, including a range of toolkits in their Reading Connects range, for children ranging from preschoolers to secondary. These are provided online as PDFs in full colour. 

Jim Trelease - writer, and passionate advocate for reading aloud to children of all ages. His website has many useful resources for schools, including a list of downloadable brochures about families and reading. Scroll down his Brochures page to find easy-to-follow instructions for getting permission to duplicate these brochures in quantity for non-profit institutions.

Reading Rockets provides free monthly newsletters Ed Extras, which are aimed at parents to help their children become readers (primary school level). Though they may need adapting, they could provide a starting point for information to go home in school newsletters to keep the home reading practice thriving. They also provide a Parents page, and a link to a sister site which focuses on adolescent literacy.

References and further reading

Mraz, M. and Rasinski, T.V.(2007). Summer reading loss. The Reading Teacher, 60(8): 784-789. International Reading Association.

Neuman, S., Caperelli, B.J. & Kee, C. (1998). Literacy learning: a family matter. The Reading Teacher, 52 (3): 244-252.  This excellent article is available through EPIC Masterfile Premier.
New Zealand schools: contact the 0800 LIB LINE (0800 542 5463) if you have questions about accessing EPIC.

Padak, N. and Rasinski, T. (April 2003). Family literacy programs: who benefits? Ohio Literacy Resource Center, Kent State University.  This 8-page literature review (one of a number of resources available on the site) outlines the major benefits of family literacy programmes for children, their parents, families and society.