Wednesday 28 June 2017

Reading with whānau support

Family involvement with a child’s education varies between schools. Education Gazette looks into a reading initiative that links schools to their learners’ whānau, and creates valuable learning connections beyond literacy.

Te Kura o Waima in Northland always knew they had supportive parents and whānau, but Board of Trustees chairperson Dallas Williams said it was about letting them know how they could be more involved in the school.
In term 2, the school started a series of four Reading Together® workshops, led by new entrant teacher, Catherine Bawden. The Reading Together® Programme is designed to help parents and whānau to support their children’s reading at home. The Ministry of Education promotes the programme to improve reading for learners in decile 1-3 schools, and provides funding to support schools to implement the
Reading Together® Programme.
Horohoro School learner Graeme Peni reads with parents Anthony (left) and Moetu.


Dallas said earlier in the year parents had expressed an interest to learn more about
what the school was teaching and how they could help out, and Catherine Bawden approached the board about running the workshops.
“Parents came in, and they started to get involved in how they could best support their child’s reading at home.”
Te Kura o Waima held their workshops in the school library. Dallas said the topics included ways of helping your child with reading, and choosing suitable books to read together.
She said the workshops opened up discussion for parents wanting to know more about how to help teach their child, and continue their education outside of school hours.
“It prompted us to say that we could do better as parents, and to do that we probably needed to be more involved.”
Teachers have already reported back to the board, saying they have noticed a difference in learners who had parents or whānau attend the workshops.
“They came back and said it’s good for them as teachers. We’ve got students who have gone home and talked about what they’ve learned, had it reinforced at home, and come back with the next steps themselves.”

Involvement beyond reading
As well as making time for the workshops, the sessions allowed half an hour at the beginning for participants to socialise and have nibbles.
Dallas said it was through creating this opportunity that parents and whānau had the chance to come up with further ideas of how they could help out at the school.
“During the time socialising in the workshops they’d talk about something they’re working on and coming into school to show how they’re doing it.”
For example, one parent was making a korowai (cloak), and offered to bring it into the school one day a week so learners could learn about the process of making one. Dallas said others started talking about what they could bring into the school, or skills they could help to teach.
As a result, the school now holds Fun Fridays, where parents come in to the school and take groups of learners for different activities. Some may work on korowai, or learn how to play the ukulele; while others are busy learning mau rakau (use of traditional Māori weapons), guitar, or a hip hop dance routine. There is also an hour held aside in the morning where learners focus on literacy or numeracy before breaking off into groups for other activities.
“We had a couple of things going, and naturally parents offered to help, and now we’ve got heaps of things going on a Friday,” said Dallas.
And it’s not just Fridays that parents come into the school. When Education Gazette interviewed Dallas on a Thursday lunchtime, she said there was one parent in the school sitting with their child, while another was in the staff room making soup.
“Reading Together® has started a new level of support for the school … Not to say parents didn’t care before, but they probably weren’t motivated enough to get involved before, and now they are.”

Reinforcing the importance of school
Horohoro School in Rotorua also ran Reading Together® workshops in term 2. School principal Eden Chapman said they decided to hold the workshops to engage their learners’ whānau, and get them excited about helping their children.
“It came from needing a way in with our families, needing a situation where they felt comfortable to come along and feel part of something.”
Teacher Jenny Chapman ran the workshops, and prior to them beginning, rang each of the 30 families involved with the school to let them know about the programme. Eden said he was impressed to see parents and whānau from 14 of the families come along to the workshops.
Horohoro School held their workshop sessions at Playtopia Playland in Rotorua. Jenny said they wanted to use an informal venue that many of the parents were already familiar with.
“That took a lot of the formality out of it and made it a more cooperative experience, rather than me passing knowledge to them,” said Jenny. “It was more learning together than me teaching them, because I really wanted to avoid them feeling like students.”
Holding the workshops at Playtopia meant the group could call on the children to be involved in the sessions at different times. At one point, Jenny said she had all the parents and whānau reading with their children.
“When they were needed, the children just came and went.”
Having the chance for a cup of tea and a chat before and after the workshops was also important, Jenny said.
“At the first workshop they were so nervous, but as it went on it became really social and people just wanted to talk, and that’s a really important part. I’d met hardly any of the parents of children in my class, and I hadn’t realised how intimidating it was for them to meet a teacher.”
Like Te Kura o Waima, making those connections has had a range of positive outcomes for Horohoro School.
The day after their first workshop, the school held their cross-country, and Jenny said “heaps” of the parents from Reading Together® came to watch. A few weeks later, a trip to the zoo had 14 parent helpers, many of them from the workshops.
In addition, Jenny can now text some of the parents about what’s happening with their child at school, and they can contact her about any concerns.
“They feel a lot more comfortable approaching me about little things, now that they know me a lot better.”

Keeping it going
Both Horohoro School and Te Kura o Waima are working on ways to continue information sharing with parents and whānau.
Dallas said as a board they had discussed the programme, and asked the staff to look into ways to keep the momentum from it going. She said the staff had come up with ideas such as literacy and numeracy information evenings, as well as sharing resources.
With a roll of 47, Dallas said the school’s size means they can be flexible with planning, and that can be used as an advantage.
Horohoro School is a similar size, and Eden said they try and put all their funding and resources towards providing good staff and good reading books.
“Reading Together® being fully funded by the Ministry was a wonderful initiative and a really effective one too. We really did well to get as many people in as we did, and I think it will have really positive outcomes for our junior children and their reading, and how their families are reinforcing the importance of school.”
Eden is keen to consult further with parents on how the school reports back to them on learning, and wants to invite them to be part of the process.
“Because they’re parents of the younger children as well, they’ll be recipients of the reports for the next eight years, some of them.”
Another event currently run by the school is a showcase twice a year at the local marae, where learners show parents and whānau what they have been working on, and a meeting is held to talk about academic achievement and school-wide reporting back to the community. Eden said he would like to consult further with parents and whānau about what happens at those evenings, and receive input about what else they could involve.

Desired outcomes from Reading Together®
Through Reading Together® workshops, parents and whānau:
  • Develop a basic understanding of the reading process and how children learn to read,
  • Learn strategies to constructively support their children’s reading at home,
  • Reflect on and discuss their experiences with their children’s reading,
  • Access and select reading material at an appropriate level for the children from school and local libraries.  
Reading Together® on TKI: