Engaging Families, Changing Literacy Practices

When Roberto rushed into school to pick his daughters up from the after school program, he wasn’t aware that his idea of his own role as a parent was about to change. When he walked into the gymnasium, he spotted his daughter sitting in a cluster of children who were being read to by an adult. As soon as she saw him, his 8 year-old daughter ran to him, hugged him and pointed to the woman behind the Family Literacy Night registration desk, saying, “Ask that lady if you can go upstairs with the grown-ups. ‘Cause I want to stay.” She quickly scampered back across the room to hear the rest of the read aloud. So, Roberto headed upstairs to where the adults were learning about reading aloud with their children. 

Roberto explained to Elizabeth, the CLI Professional Developer, that he had just come from work and that his wife usually comes to school events. Elizabeth began a discussion about why it is important for parents to read with their children. She reminisced about being read to by her older sister, snuggling into her sister’s bed and leaning on her shoulder as she listened to story after story. Elizabeth explained that one of the benefits of reading often with one’s children is that they come to rely on that time as a time to snuggle together and connect with their parent, and from that connectedness comes a feeling of security that helps them deal with adversity.

Roberto’s eyes lit up.  “I remember my mother teaching me to write when I was very little,” he explained to the group. And he went on to tell about how caring his mother was when working with him. Roberto listened intently to the tips he was offered about how to read to his daughters, as well as how to support them as they read aloud to him. When the session was over, he carefully collected his bookmark of helpful tips, his refrigerator magnet of conversation starters, and his workbook.

With everything in hand and everyone else gone, Roberto turned to Elizabeth and said, “Can you say my name?” 

“Yes. You’re Roberto,” she offered with a smile. He then went about saying his name, emphasizing the rolling ‘r’ so Elizabeth could repeat it back to him with the correct pronunciation. After a couple of tries, he was satisfied that she knew his name.

“My wife, she reads to my daughters because I work so much. When I come home I turn on the television. But I see. This is important, Elizabeth.” Then, standing to leave, Roberto reached out his hand and said, “Thank you, Elizabeth. Tonight I will read to my daughters – for the first time.” 

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