Home-school reading partnerships

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Home-school partnerships help foster literacy at home, which is particularly important for supporting 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.


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
Making a difference: gathering evidence
Useful resources for schools and parents
References and further reading

Successful home-school literacy partnerships: common factors

The focus of home–school partnerships is on the concept of Ako – learning together and learning from one another. Strong relationships - staff-student relationships, staff-community relationships and student-student relationships give students the best chance of success.

Successful home-school partnerships are formed by understanding and acknowledging the value of identity, language and culture to enable students to reach their full potential. (cf Ka Hikitia; Pasifika Education Plan). This can be realised through personal contact - conversations, school and community-based social events and activities. But, also more formal reporting processes between teachers and parents.

Building strong relationships requires school staff, parents and students to share their unique knowledge of the student.

Parents and whānau play a critical role in supporting their children’s learning right from the start. Evidence shows that learning outcomes are enhanced when parental involvement in school is sustained and focused on learning activities.  (Ka Hikitia, p.28.) 

Schools can provide information and resources, which encourage and support family involvement with their children’s reading.  

Literacy programmes that engage families share some common elements:

  • 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 – providing plenty of opportunities through the school year
  • The suggestion of a variety of literacy activities for the home – 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

Adapted from elements that contribute to family literacy participation in Summer Reading Loss (Neuman, Caperelli, & Kee (1998), by Mraz and Rasinski (2007).

Use the links on this page as starting points to develop your own approach with your school community. 

How schools can help parents encourage their children to read

About 85 percent of a child’s time is spent out of school. 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. 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 whānau - grandparents, aunties and uncles, and other family members. Reading with grandchildren can be a special time for grandparents, cementing close bonds between the generations. Technology also makes it possible for long distance grandparents to share books through video tools such as Skype and social networking tools.

Develop inclusive responsive library services

To help parents encourage their children become motivated and engaged readers, your school and school library can develop inclusive, responsive library services:

  • Develop a SOCIAL library that reflects your student community through the inclusion of resources, cultural displays and languages.
  • Work with students and their families to understand students’ personal interests as well as their reading abilities. School staff and the library team can then promote and match books to reflect these.
  • Invite parents into the library to choose books for and with their children. Guide them about how they can help their children choose what to read. Limiting choice can sometimes help someone who is overwhelmed, such as a “good books” box with 10 or so titles.
  • Provide selected book lists to parents targeted to their child’s interests and reading level. These can also support the transition from picture books to junior chapter books / series, to fiction and genres.
  • Have generous borrowing limits that allow parents to borrow books for reading aloud at home. Arrange for parents to borrow books for pre-schoolers - liaise with kōhanga reo and early childhood centres to assist transitions to school.
  • Promote reading through the school holidays by allowing families to borrow books from the school library for holiday reading.
  • Think about how to make Māori, Pasifika and other digital resources relevant to your school community easily accessible as part of your library’s online presence. Resources for learning has a range of digital resources including Māori and Pasifika online books and interactive learning games.

Reading strategies for use at home and school

Engage parents in reading strategies at home and in school:

  • Include "reading homework” to encourage students to read regularly each day.
  • Share storytelling tips with parents on how to read aloud effectively and share read aloud recommendations
  • Engage parent help with reading, writing and oral language activities in the school and in the library.
  • Involve parents in blending reading with makerspacer activities where students learn to use tools and materials and develop creative projects.
  • Provide book clubs and other library activities to allow students and their families to share their reading experiences and promote resources. Talk to your students and their families. What activities would they like in their library?
  • Enact scenes from plays or other texts, using storytelling puppets, writing and performing vignettes from parts of the story.
  • Highlight special events such as Book Week, Duffy Books in Home assemblies, language weeks, and community celebrations. Include guest speakers such as community leaders, authors and illustrators.
  • Use creative storytelling tools to write their version of a story. See Web 2.0 Cool tools for schools for a treasure trove of tools.
  • Provide opportunities for students to visit the public library during school time and after school, and encourage parents and other family to use the library with them.
  • Encourage families to join their local public library and take part in reading events such as Summer Reading challenges. Promote reading through the school holidays by enabling families to borrow books from the school library for holiday reading.

Find out more about the importance of summer reading.

Find out more about reading at home.

Parents as reading role models - especially dads

Highlight to parents their importance as reading role models to inspire their children to read, especially boys. The key is seeing their fathers or other men in their lives read and hearing them talk about their favourite reads.

Good reading role models at home might:

  • read in front of their children
  • chat about books and what they are reading in a positive and encouraging way
  • read aloud to their children
  • explain how the simple act of reading for pleasure is so important and enjoyable! ( leads to improved literacy skills, vocabulary and knowledge of the world)
  • surround their home with books in a range of formats and genre, magazines, newspapers and catalogues
  • show that reading is a part of everyone’s lives by reading diverse materials such as cookbooks, cereal boxes, instructions for kitsets / games / puzzles; websites, television adverts, telephone directories, and environmental print such as road signs, billboards and logos
  • borrow from libraries and buy from bookstores together – practising the art of browsing and noticing interesting topics

Read Aloud brochures have excellent advice on the benefits of reading out loud and tips on how to read to children. Available for download in English, Mäori, Cook Island Maori, Samoan and Tongan.

Find out more about reading at home. At the bottom of the page you can download 'Help your child become a reader (PDF) brochures' available in English, Māori, Samoan, Niuean, Tokelauan, Tongan and Cook Island Māori.

Reading connects family involvement toolkit (PDF)The UK National Literacy Trust's free downloadable toolkit.

Getting the blokes on board: (PDF) The UK National Literacy Trust's free downloadable toolkit.

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

Booktrust Get Dad's Reading.

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

Successful partnerships require an understanding of the challenges and barriers some families face. Provide targeted resourcing and promotion of services based on school reading data and evidence you have gathered.

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

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:

  • Hold informal conversations and meetings
  • Include snippets regularly in the school newsletter / classroom newsletter
  • Send notes to parents in homework diaries or attached to resources such as a suggested bedtime reading book
  • Send a letter or flyer home each term
  • Talk about reading during parent / teacher interviews
  • Use 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:

  • 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. Include local bookshops with good knowledge and stock of children's literature, and useful websites with recommendations and reviews of books.

Making a difference - gathering evidence

You can measure the impact home-school partnerships have made on students’ competence in reading as part of your school’s assessment of the school’s literacy programme.

Some ideas for data-gathering activities include:

  • check the library catalogue’s ‘Reports’ section on issue statistics and linking this information with students’ reading data
  • collect anecdotes, testimonials, and photographs of parents and students to illustrate how they and the library’s services enrich the reading lives of students.

Evaluate the effectiveness of home-school initiatives on student learning and identify successes and areas requiring improvement for the next planned initiative. Keep senior management apprised of plans, developments, successes and issues. Use success stories to promote and continuously improve home-school practices in supporting reading.

Read more about evidence and learning outcomes

Read more about using learner voices to inform library services

Useful resources for schools and parents

Set up a Parent Library in your school which includes books and brochures for parents about reading. Promote these to parents.

  • Fox, M. (2001). Reading magic. Pan Books.
  • Jennings, P.(2003). The reading bug, and how you can help your child catch it. Penguin.
  • Moloney, J. (2000). Boys and Books. ABC Books.
  • Trelease, J. (2006).- The Read-aloud handbook, 6th ed.
  • 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.

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 Supporting your child's learning section on the Ministry of Education website is a good resource to direct parents to. Includes 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. Includes 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). Adapted they could provide a starting point for information in school newsletters to keep the home reading practice thriving. They also provide a Parents page, and a link to a sister site that 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. Outlines the major benefits of family literacy programmes for children, their parents, families and society.