For three years, teachers at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary in District of Columbia Public Schools have invited families to evening literacy workshops, called Open Books, to build relationships and to promote reading. We had a chance to visit Ludlow-Taylor, a school serving a significant percentage of low-income families, for its fourth session this school year on a Thursday evening in February. The teachers leading Open Books vary in their grade-level positions and collaborate to make the literacy sessions a positive experience for the families.
First-grade teacher Rachael Yeager offers her classroom to host and welcome the families. She collaborates with the school’s reading specialist, Kristen Addison Catlett, and kindergarten teacher, Becca Morrison, to ensure that curriculum and materials are prepped, pizza is ordered, and leveled books are ready for families to use so that they can practice the reading strategies they learn during the sessions.
For the 2016-17 school year, the Open Books sessions at Ludlow-Taylor host an average of 10 families each evening. The topics they cover include practicing sight word recognition, building phonics and phonemic awareness skills, developing vocabulary and comprehension, and enhancing fluency skills. When asked how families are responding to Open Books, Yeager noted that she has had many parents email her to say thank you for offering the sessions. She also stated that many parents expressed how certain ideas and strategies have been a huge help for at-home reading. One mom, in particular, mentioned to Yeager that the session on sight word recognition was incredibly helpful because she now has “learning strategies that they can directly apply at home.”
For each hour-long session, the three teachers use activities from the Pages & Chapters website to print, copy, and send home, as well as other online resources that they integrate into a take-home packet. For the session we attended, they modeled and sent home fluency activities, including a rubric for families to use to help explain the differences between prosody, accuracy, and rate. The teachers said that the parents were excited to learn about the nuances of fluency and that this new understanding will have a positive effect on their child’s at-home reading. “The hands-on activities have been powerful and having teachers there to model certain reading strategies has been very helpful,” Morrison said. Catlett echoed her thoughts, saying she “likes being able to answer questions and focus on specific areas of need.”
Using and implementing Open Books is not limited to teachers in Washington, D.C., or Kansas City, Missouri. The Pages & Chapters website offers downloadable curriculum and materials at no cost for teachers to host their own Open Books sessions with families. We also encourage teachers to apply for additional resources, such as food/snacks, books, prizes for families, or any materials that would empower teachers to engage families in literacy.
Written by Jenny Albro. Jenny is the founder and president of Pages & Chapters.