We recently had our first Title 1 event since COVID. I can’t even begin to tell you the joy it brought me to have parents back in the building. It was kind of like the first time I had small group at a kidney table—an overwhelming sense of joy and relief. It was something I had taken for granted until I could no longer do it. Today, I want to share what we did for our Title 1 event and some considerations for literacy events moving forward.
Think About Your Goals
When we are teaching, we always think about our end goals. When you are planning an event, it is helpful to have that same mindset as well. If your end goal is to educate parents on how they can help at home, then you might want to offer an event where children are being watched in one room while parents are in another so you can teach them.
My main goal with this breakfast was to invite parents in, create a sense of community, and offer very simple tips that can be done at home. Because of this, we had parents and students together in the same room.
No matter what, think about your end goal with the event. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy or expensive: it just needs to accomplish the goals you have in mind.
Our Title 1 Breakfast
We decided to host a breakfast event. Both of the reading specialists at my school have families and we wanted to preserve our time with our own families while also serving our students’ families. We coordinated this event with our librarian to happen during the Scholastic Book Fair.
- We asked our amazing cafeteria staff to cater breakfast. It was less work than having to go make or buy it ourselves, and our families got to see what an incredible job our cafeteria staff does. (If any of you are reading this, please know how much I cherish you!)
- When parents were finished with breakfast, there were a variety of easy-to-play games left out. These are games our students have played with us in intervention, so they could easily show their parents how to play.
- After everyone finished eating and we played games, we gave a talk about ways parents can help their students at home. We made magnets that aligned with our discussion. I spoke about what to do when a child is stuck on a word, and my fellow reading specialist discussed comprehension strategies. This was very low-key and did not take much time.
- After the discussion, we gave every child a $5 gift card to the book fair.
This all worked really, really well. It felt great to feed our families, play games, and give them a gift for showing up.
When you are planning an event for families, there are a few considerations.
- Think about holding events throughout the year at multiple times. We held a breakfast event, but also plan to hold an evening event. This way is inclusive of more families.
- Parents don’t need a course on the Science of Reading. While some parents will appreciate deep dives into theory, most parents just want to know how to help their children at home. When we start throwing around complicated theory and terminology, we begin to exclude many of our parents.
- If you have funds to feed your families, please do! Events with food always have higher turn-out rates. I know personally if you invite me to an event that is approaching meal time, I’m thinking about how I need to go home and make dinner for my family, not what you’re talking about. I’m also a big believer that sharing meals together brings people together.
- Try to give something that parents can take with them. Our handouts were a magnet we made using VistaPrint with reading tips, as well as copies of the games we made. During our summer event, we will send home Ziploc bags full of games, writing materials, and decodable texts for students to read.
Nothing I’m writing is groundbreaking or particularly original, and I’m okay with that. It is not a competition to have the flashiest, cutest, most original family night. It is about getting families into our buildings and reaching them in whatever way we can. For us, a breakfast event with a few giveaways was plenty. What about you? What have you done for family events?