Tools for Parents

Tools for Parentsparents

When parents and families get personally involved in education, their children do better in school and grow up to be more successful in life.

Sounds like common sense, doesn't it?

Yet parental involvement is one of the most overlooked aspects of American education today. The fact is, many parents do not realize how important it is to get involved in their children's learning. As one dad said when he began to read to his daughter every day and discovered that it improved her learning, "I never realized how much it would mean to her to hear me read." Other parents would like to be involved, but have trouble finding the time.

All parents and family members should try to find the time and make the effort because research shows that when families get involved, their children:

  • Get better grades and test scores and graduate from high school at higher rates.
  • Are more likely to go on to higher education.
  • Are better behaved and have more positive attitudes.

Family involvement is also one of the best investments a family can make. Students who graduate from high school earn, on average, $200,000 more in their lifetimes than students who drop out. A college graduate makes almost $1 million more!

Most importantly, all parents and families can enjoy these benefits. It does not matter how much money you have. It does not matter how much formal education you have had yourself or how well you did in school. And family involvement works for children at all grade levels.

What is Family Involvement in Education?

It is a lot of different types of activities. Some parents and families may have the time to get involved in many ways. Other may only have the time for one or two activities. But whatever your level of involvement, remember: if you get involved and stay involved, you can make a world of difference.

Family involvement in education means:

  • Reading a bedtime story to your preschool child
  • Checking homework every night
  • Getting involved in PTA
  • Discussing your children's progress with teachers
  • Voting in school board elections
  • Helping your school to set challenging academic standards
  • Limiting TV viewing to no more than two hours on school nights
  • Getting personally involved in governing your school
  • Becoming an advocate for better education in your community and state
  • Insisting on high standards of behavior for children.

Or, family involvement can be as simple as asking your children, "How was school today?" But ask every day. That will send your children the clear message that their schoolwork is important to you and you expect them to learn.

Many children and parents are yearning for this kind of togetherness these days. Among students aged 10 to 13, for example, 72 percent say they would like to talk to their parents more about their homework. Forty percent of parents across the country believe that they are not devoting enough time to their children's education. And teachers say that increasing parental involvement in education should be the number one priority for public education in the next few years.

Getting Started
Read together.

Children who read at home with their parents perform better in school. Show your kids how much you value reading by keeping good books, magazines, and newspapers in the house. Let them see you read. Take them on trips to the library and encourage them to get library cards. Let children read to you, and talk about the books. What was the book about? Why did a character act that way? What will he or she do next?

Look for other ways to teach children the magic of language, words, and stories. Tell stories to your children about their families and their culture. Point out words to children wherever you go-to the grocery, to the pharmacy, to the gas station. Encourage your children to write notes to grandparents and other relatives.

Sharing the Success
Brenda Reep

Mrs. Brenda Reep of Durham, North Carolina has three children in the public school system. During the past school year, two of her children attended elementary school and one attended middle school. Brenda expressed her appreciation for the "extra mile" effort of two of her children’s teachers.

According to Brenda, her child in fifth grade had been retained the previous year and by teacher request placed in the same teacher’s classes again. This teacher provided extra help during his own personal time for her child. Additionally, he provided books for her child to read, extra practice in division problems and continued monitoring and support in areas of weakness. Although she truly appreciated his efforts for her child, she was impressed by the fact that he provided the same exertion to meet the needs of other students in his class. The fact that this teacher truly cared about his students struck her the most.

Brenda noted that the teacher of her child in second grade made all the difference in her child’s school experience. Almost daily communication between parent and teacher formed the basis for a successful year. During the first grading period, Brenda’s child began experiencing difficulty, but communication and cooperation between parent and teacher created a support system that fostered success. Brenda noted that this teacher spent extra time with her child—more than was required. The one-on-one time this teacher provided was invaluable. Brenda stressed how the willingness of the teacher to listen and take the time to answer questions created an open line of communication.

"Communication is the key…the biggest thing," she said.