Workshop Leaders' / Teachers' Comments about Reading Together®

Summary of some general comments

Reading Together®

Being involved in the programme implementation has:

  • reinforced our belief that all parents want the best for their children and that we have to find ways of encouraging them into school
  • helped us to realise how much we take for granted that parents know how to help, and how much personal reading experiences impact on how parents read with their children
  • helped us to recognise that we should never assume, and that even the most confident parents appreciate professional input - some aren't sure how to help their children.

The programme is valuable because:

  • it increases (our) confidence, ideas, skills and strategies in talking to parents
  • for children, home and school are talking the same language and supporting them
  • it brings together home/school partnership enabling both sides to see how each can affect the other
  • the partnership is what gets the children motivated to succeed.

The programme worked because:

  • of the excellent organisation and facilitation
  • it has sound theory with practical balance
  • it is not a 'top-down' delivery
  • parents felt their concerns were listened to sympathetically
  • it was a small group, sharing concerns and problems and hands-on activities
  • small scale meetings are more valuable than mass one-off meetings for parents
  • the programme provides the opportunity to attract those you wish to help.

Specific comments

Experiencing the genuine gratitude that parents express has reinforced the vital need for this type of home support... [Reading Together] must become embedded practice within schools rather than an occasional offering.
Despite my own initial lack of confidence I found these workshop programmes to be very successful. All the parents obviously recommended these workshops to others because other parents have asked me when I will be running more. I am happy to do this. Professionally I have grown in confidence in working with parents and also I can make them feel comfortable enough to share their fears about reading and see these grow to more positive attitudes. The parents' own self-esteem also showed positive signs of improvement.

Primary teacher who ran the workshops co-operatively with a colleague in a semi-rural, low-decile school:

Although we were both a little hesitant to start with, we soon relaxed and began to enjoy what was to become heaps of fun. Our reasons for being a little hesitant had come from previous programmes which had turned into 'Why don't you do this?' or 'Children leaving this school can't do what others can' etc ... We would certainly run this course again. We found working together was great. It gave us confidence. Since this parents' meeting, Angela has run a workshop in Maths. We can see opportunities for workshops in written language and spelling as well as developing oral language skills. Thank you for sharing these workshops with us. I needed to be shown and encouraged into working with parents again.

Māori teacher who ran the workshops for Māori parents in a total immersion school:

The reading programme went off very well. If there were difficulties it was getting the parents to attend ALL the sessions, which did not happen for a variety of reasons. Everyone enjoyed the programme and found new confidence to sit with the children. They were pleased to see the natural progressions that children went through learning to read. Many parents learned to be more patient and tolerant with their children. Consequently they noticed the change in relationships between themselves and their child. The child was more interested in reading and found it no longer a task. I'm pleased we went through this exercise.

Teacher who implemented the workshops for parents in a high-decile rural school:

We are truly delighted with the results, not only in the children's ability to read and understand what they are reading, but also the obvious development of self-esteem, handwriting progress, mathematical progress and oral ability in the classroom. As a teacher I am surprised, pleased and delighted with the progress children have made. So are their parents. (This teacher included 'happy mums' and 'happy children' in the signature on her letter.)

Teacher who implemented the workshops (with a colleague) for parents in a low-decile city intermediate school:

We ran sessions at our own intermediate school, and we were warned that parents wouldn't come. Well, they were wrong. We had an overwhelming response from parents - Fathers took time off work etc. It was mid-winter and the weather was not always wonderful. We (Clare and I) ran four sessions from 3.30 - 4.45 pm on Mondays. We had a public librarian and our own school librarian to promote books to parents. The feedback was so excellent that we are now going to try to make them a regular feature of the school and plan to start another course next term - and another in the first term of next year.

How did the parents feel about it? They wished they had known earlier how to help their children, wished this kind of course could be run in the lower primary school. Apart from a marked improvement in their children's reading, others said the extra time spent with their child affected family relationships, that they became more aware of their (children's) needs. Some parents said their children progressed in spelling skills, others said the child was practising at reading more. Some children's behaviour improved at home and school.

A classroom teacher who implemented the workshop programme in a multicultural city school, as her post-graduate university research study:

The most important things parents reported that they had learned about helping their children varied from person to person. One parent said that she had become more generous with my child and not so critical.

The children were surprisingly keen to have their parents (and themselves) participate in the programme and three parents mentioned that their children were enjoying the idea of them going to school. Certainly in the classroom I had very positive feedback and they were keen to come to the second workshop and participate with their parents.

It was interesting to see the parents supporting each other as time went on. Sometimes I felt like a by-stander as the parents shared ideas with each other and the real learning was taking place! This is one of the strengths of the programme.

Often parents feel that their child is the only one having difficulties and that can be very isolating.

All parents seemed to think that their children's reading had improved in some way since starting the programme. Several mentioned improved confidence as a result or more consistent practice, and a more positive attitude towards reading. Others commented on the strategies their child is now able to use to solve a problem with an unknown word, and the fact that they were now willing to tackle these themselves instead of deferring straight away to their parent for help. One parent wrote 'Thanks for caring'.

The post-programme running records showed that all the children had improved the age level at which they were reading, above what would normally be expected in a classroom reading programme over that length of time.

A teacher who ran the workshops in a large city secondary school for low-decile students:

The workshops were the most satisfying part of my teaching career and over those 10 or 12 years I wish I had kept a record of how many parents, volunteer tutors (both adults and senior students) benefited from the workshops. For some of the women tutors the confidence they gained helped them get back into the workforce, and the senior students would have taken those skills of working alongside children into their many and varied careers. Many went on to become really good primary teachers. To my mind it is an extremely cost effective way of helping families relate well together with so few sessions.

Some parents help other children in their extended families/communities e.g. younger siblings are usually reading competently when they arrive at secondary school - No, I don't need help - mum helps us now.

Once the programme is established in a school, it grows from there.

Why would you involve parents at secondary? Because parents are thrilled to be able to learn a way of helping, they end up helping more than their own kids, some would join the tutor programme, and then go get a job somewhere.

The adult doing the helping often improves their own reading, spelling etc.

Some had no cars and had to walk but it was surprising how they all turned up. These kids were mostly from low income families.

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