Think about all the time students spend outside of our classrooms. And think, for a moment, about the kids who you know live in a home where reading is a priority. It’s a game-changer in their education! So you don’t need me to tell you that kids who read and are read to have an enormous advantage when it comes to literacy.

Now, at this point we can either throw up our hands and say, “Parents have to step it up!” or we can roll up our sleeves and figure out how to collaborate with parents better.

At Springboard Collaborative, we’re rolling up our sleeves.

Instead of just focusing on kids who need to work on their literacy skills over the summer, Springboard enlists the help of families to leverage that crucial out-of-classroom time. And with promising results! Many Springboard students actually boost their reading level by 3 months over the summer instead of sliding backwards.

So how do we do it?

Well, we don’t just tell parents to “read with their kids” or “listen as your kid reads this decodable book.”

Instead we build relationships, we set goals together, and perhaps most importantly of all, we EXPLICITLY train parents on how to read with their kids and help their kids form strong reading habits. 

This explicit instruction is often missing from our regular classrooms. (I should insert here the relationship that makes parents more receptive to explicit instruction is also missing. But that’s another article.) So when we wonder why parents aren’t stepping it up, we should consider that perhaps they really just don’t know how.

But that can change.

From Day 1 in Kindergarten, teach parents the WHY and HOW for the skills they need.

So for example, don’t just say: “Read to your child tonight.”

Instead say something like this:
Read to your kids for at least 15 minutes every day. Did you know that an important part of reading comprehension is knowing what the words mean (vocabulary) and knowing information about the world (we call this “background knowledge”)? Families can play a huge role in helping kids develop both vocabulary and background knowledge (and bonus—background knowledge comes in every language! Entonces leer con su hijo en la idioma de su preferencia.)

Here is a list of books you’ll enjoy as a family on __(insert topic from the class)___.
Here is a book from our classroom library. Enjoy it together as a family this weekend. You can read it 3 or 4 times and each time you’ll discover something new! A few questions you might discuss are…

How do you get reading time in? It can be hard! Share your tips so we can learn from each other. Text me your ideas so I can spread the knowledge.

Have a book you love reading together? Donate a copy to our classroom library! We love books en Español.

Don’t just say: “Read this book with your kids.”

Instead say:
We’re working on the sound /a/ like in “cat” and “pat.” When your child reads this book to you, ask her to slow down and read each word, sound by sound. Listen for the /a/ sound. Then ask her to read it again, this time saying the words a little faster. If you have time to read it a third time, celebrate how smoothly she’s reading it!

Did you know that playing rhyming games can really help your child hear the different sounds in a word? If they can’t “hear” the sound, they will have trouble reading the sound. So play “What Rhymes With…” this weekend. Start with easier words like “bat” and “take.” Say each sound in the words. If you can, move on to words with long and short “e” sounds (like “egg” and “free”) and “o” sounds (like “pot” and “coat”).
What other games do you play at home? We always need more ideas. Have any questions? Text me!

You get the idea. Here’s the main formula:
• Give some specific instruction
• Explain the why, briefly
• Provide some different ways families can practice the skills
• Invite collaboration

What about older grades?

Parents of older kids can provide different support and will likely have different questions than parents of beginning readers. So start by asking what questions or concerns they have with their child’s reading. Figure out what to do next from there.

Continue to support reading at home by giving suggestions for books their kids might enjoy reading on their own. Also let them know what you’re studying in class and give them ideas on how to strengthen that background knowledge. (We’re studying deserts—check out X and Y videos and read Z together. Here are some titles your child may enjoy that will help them learn more.)

Explicitly encourage them to read aloud to their kids and on a variety of subjects. Many parents think they should stop reading aloud to their child. Here is a video to help.

Middle and high school parents need to know that they can continue to help their children learn new words and new concepts by talking with them about what they read (and what their parents read) every day. They could also talk to their children about:
• Reading and taking notes
• Navigating a textbook
• Deciding what’s an important “take-away” in an article or text
• Making time for reading
• Persevering through a difficult text
• Being able to explain to someone what you read

All parents need a vision for what reading looks like and sounds like at their child’s level. has a series of good “milestone” videos to help.

Assure parents of reluctant readers that there are things they can do at home to help. Especially encourage rereading. Many parents might not know that rereading is so beneficial for struggling readers.

Model, model, model.

Here are some of the Springboard Collaborative family workshop videos for reading with older children.

Thinking that we, as educators, can help students become lifelong, thoughtful, skilled readers all on our own, is hubris.

Families make a huge difference in literacy instruction and we can ensure that the difference they make is positive!

Post contributed by Amanda Hamilton Roos of