Home-to-School Literacy Project:

Increasing family literacy with bilingual resources

Mrs. Nicole Jones and Dr. Brendon Thiry, Martin City K-8 & Butcher-Greene Elementary, Grandview, MO

Home-to-School Literacy Project:

Introduction

Family literacy activities are essential for student academic success in school. The Home-School Literacy Project equips students and parents with bilingual activities, books, and resources to support their literacy skills. Families participate in a literacy night to share their own experiences and learn more ways they can support their children at home. They learn how to listen to bilingual books at home using PENpals electronic readers. Thematic units of instruction and authentic lessons are created with the books so that newcomers (brand new to the U.S.) and emergent English learners (ELs) can actively participate in classroom activities.

This project and purchased materials help support two different schools. The schools serve ELs with highly diverse needs. At one school, the ELs are older and have been learning English since Kindergarten but are still emerging readers. At the other school, the students are slightly younger and are newcomers. The literacy activities and parent-engagement nights look different for each group, but the end goal is the same—to support all students and their families.

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Families participate in a literacy engagement event to help them feel welcomed and establish a relationship with teachers. The ELD teachers share some of the free available bilingual resources. 
  • Send families a literacy needs survey (translated) to determine what resources they have at home and might need.
  • Purchase Language Lizard bilingual books and text-to-voice PENpals. Download the audio from each book onto pens. Download, modify, and translate the free teaching resources that come with most of the purchased books (from Language Lizard website) so that families can do literacy activities at home. Find and create adapted materials (Teachers-Pay-Teacher and Twinkl) for books that don’t include free teaching resources.
  • Teach students how to use the electronic pens. Allow them to check out a book and pen before a potential snow day. In the future, ELD teachers will pass out literacy activities that accompany the books throughout the year.
  • Invite families to two literacy nights to identify what literacy skills they already have and leverage those funds of knowledge as we model foundational reading discussion questions and activities that they can do at home with the bilingual books. They will also learn how to use the PENpals so they can check out their first book. 
  • Design and implement bilingual thematic units of instruction to use with all students. This is a work in progress, as we are continually receiving new books (and more pens) from donors! We found tons of bilingual books on the website First Book and at our schools’ Scholastic Book Fair as well.

Timeline

  • November - Parent Engagement Night & Literacy Needs Survey
  • December - Purchase Materials from Language Lizard https://www.languagelizard.com/
  • January - Introduce bilingual books and complete in-class activities that build literacy skills. Allow students to take home a book before each snow day to get comfortable with bilingual books (discuss in class on return) Send home literacy needs survey. 
  • February - Send home first set of literacy activities. Host newcomer parent engagement event. Show families how to use pens and give them an opportunity to check out books.
  • March - Reflect with students and give families survey rating their experience with books and literacy activities. 

Budget

Augustus and His Smile (Vietnamese-English)
Augustus and His Smile (Spanish-English)
Be Kind (Vietnamese-English)
Be Kind (Spanish-English)
Errol's Garden (Vietnamese-English)
Errol's Garden (Spanish-English)
Food, Food, Fabulous Food (Spanish-English)
Happy After All (Vietnamese-English)
Happy After All (Spanish-English)
Keeping Up with Cheetah (Spanish-English)
Keeping Up with Cheetah (Vietnamese-English)
The Three Little Sun Bears (Spanish-English)
PENpal Audio Recorder Pe & Recordable Labels (Talking Pen)
5 PENpal Value Pack with Recordable Labels (Talking Pen)

What did it look like?

Sustainability

These bilingual books and PENpals will be shared in Professional Development sessions across the district. Students and staff will have the opportunity to check them out for classroom use. If they are popular with staff, we hope that the school librarians will purchase more. There may be an even higher need for these materials as newcomers continue to arrive in the coming years. We plan to utilize resources from Colorín Colorado (2009) which has a vast number of resources to support families on their journey towards academic success for their children, including ”…a wealth of bilingual, research-based information, activities, and advice for educators and families of English language learners (ELLs).” 

We hope to continue purchasing materials from Language Lizard because their resources include: 

  • Bilingual books in over 60 languages
  • Bilingual book sets
  • Multilingual posters
  • Bilingual audio book sets 
  • PENpal Audio Recorder Pen 
  • Teaching manuals to support culturally responsive instruction 
  • Free multicultural lesson plans 
  • Blog with language & diversity-related articles and information

Reflections

The most rewarding part of this project was seeing the students’ facial expressions when we showed them bilingual books. Not only had they never held a book in two languages, but they also loved the themes. A student was particularly fond of the book Happy After All because it addressed overcoming adversity as an immigrant. She read it with her little sister and mom, who is a first-generation immigrant. The newcomers loved using the PENpals at school. It allowed them to access rich texts and complete literacy activities they might not otherwise be able to do in their classroom.

The parent event was a success! It took place in early November, so we made it a Thanksgiving-themed event. Families brought authentic dishes to share, and we provided games, arts-and-crafts, and a literacy component. Using free resources from Colorín Colorado, we discussed tips and tricks parents can use to help their children be successful in school. We shared Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library because it recently became available in Missouri! 

We gave families a bilingual literacy needs survey to complete at home. Unfortunately, less families completed the surveys than we had hoped. We analyzed the results to inform how we would use our materials and future purchases. We were happy to see that some families indicated that they would like to learn reading and literacy strategies to help support their child at home. Each book is sent home with a literacy strategy bookmark and some enrichment activities. Students will have an opportunity to check out books and materials before school breaks. We are eager to get more feedback from families about their experience with this project. 

Trying to schedule a parent event is difficult during the winter months. Not only are ELD teachers trying to complete ACCESS testing, but inclement weather is a huge issue. To combat these barriers, we scheduled a parent event during parent teacher conferences. This allowed parents to check in with their classroom teachers and learn some literacy strategies to use at home with their children.

A colleague recommended a simple procedure for checking out and taking home each book, PENpal, and literacy activity to minimize lost and destroyed materials. We found some very colorful tote bags that can store the items. We imagine that by the start of the next school year, we will have a fully functioning bilingual library with activities and resources, not just in English and Spanish, but also in Arabic, Vietnamese, and Dari! 

We were less satisfied with the free resources that come with the books. They are great for school-based lessons but aren’t designed for most families to facilitate at home. Moving forward, they will be changed to mirror the activities adapted from TPT and Twinkl. We are most proud of the bilingual bookmarks and are excited to use them moving forward.

Folder with additional resources 

What did it look like?

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