“Why National Family Literacy Month Should Last All Year” by Susannah Mathews

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Modern life is full of distractions; though perhaps a self-evident truth, it needs noting. Hyper-connected, overly packed lifestyles leave less time for sharing books with our children, especially with iPads, Super Why! and pressing work emails to divert our attention. If given a choice between exploring the infinite possibilities of imagination through a good book, and playing with Mom’s iPhone, we all know what most children would choose.

As we approach the end of National Family Literacy Month, it is important to recognize those who, like Raising A Reader MA, have taken steps to advocate for family literacy. One example is Citizens Academy, a Cleveland charter school who has credited its students’ stunningly high test scores to its own Parent Engagement Program.  At Citizens, engaged parents emphatically reinforce what teachers do in the classroom at home, supporting their children in achieving their personalized academic goals.  Also in Cleveland – Esperanza Inc., a non-profit that supports Hispanic youth’ academic development. Just like Raising A Reader MA, Esperanza organizes bilingual workshops to address involvement of Hispanic parents in their children’s education.

Elianne Ramos, journalist for the Huffington Post’s “LatinoVoices,” couldn’t have stated it any better when she wrote that “life opens up, and dreams become possible when you learn to read, and read well.” In her recent article, Ramos observed how North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools and the National Center for Family Literacy have been collaborating to showcase the importance of family literacy programs. One activity is the Three Million Books Challenge, a campaign that incentivizes students to read. The NCFL also sponsors the Litera-Seeds mini-grants program, designed to help fund classroom projects that encourage parent engagement.

While there are examples, here in Boston and throughout the country, of work being done to address family literacy and parent involvement in education, we have a long road ahead of us. And while studies show that, at every socioeconomic level, children with involved parents perform better in school, there are a million reasons hindering parents from reading daily to children at home and being more involved in school life, from language barriers to extracurricular activities. At Raising A Reader MA, we believe that parents are respected partners in their children’s education. In the end, you are your child’s most important teacher, and it is your choices that most greatly influence the level of your child’s interest in learning. It’s time to unplug. I suggest rebooting with a really good book and the child you love.

 

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Susannah Kate Matthews is the Somerville Liaison and Special Projects Assistant. As an English major at Connecticut College, she was able to steer her love of books into critical theory as well as poetry. She moved to Portland, OR after graduation for a year in AmeriCorps – she worked for the Washington Reading Corps, supporting literacy development in Head Start classrooms and advocating for family literacy through a small non-profit. She has been with Raising A Reader since February of 2012, and has loved every moment of it. She is hoping to pursue a Masters of Education starting next fall. She can be contacted at susannah@raisingareaderma.org