A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

A Compact for Reading - February 1999
Put Your Compact for Reading to Work

The goal of the third step of the Compact process is to ensure that the Compact, once written and accepted by the community, is actually used to improve the reading and other language arts skills and achievement of children.

The Core and Invention Teams should meet periodically with the partners signing the Compact, to review the commitments in the Compact. Status reports can be provided on the extent to which principals, teachers, families, and their children are meeting their commitments in the Compact for Reading. The teams, for example, may want to make a checklist of all the commitments made on the Compact and rewrite each commitment as a question--"Have you.... (conducted workshops, sent home learning activities each night, obtained a library card for each child)?"-- to use at these meetings (see Activity Sheet 3A).

These meetings can be excellent opportunities for identifying and documenting:

As report cards go out to the students each grading period, the Core Team provides summary reports on important progress made by partners to fulfill the Compact responsibilities, resources that are needed to implement the Compact, and any new Compact activities that are scheduled to be kicked off during the next term.

  
The School-Home Links Reading Kit: A Launching Activity for Your New Compact
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Launching your new Compact for Reading with an activity that involves all the partners who signed your school Compact highlights the importance of the Compact as a tool to drive improvement.

To improve family involvement in education, the Mason School in Boston, Massachusetts, launched a School-Home Activities Program. This program offered learning activities for families and their children at home to reinforce the teachers' work in school. The principal and teachers at Mason School developed the take-home materials. Families were asked to work with their children on these simple reading skill builders four times a week. When families were unable to work with children at home because of language or reading barriers, volunteers from the community helped. When all the members of the learning community--students and their families, principals and teachers, and community volunteers-- became involved, a critical mass of support was developed for the school, and all partners learned there were clear and simple ways they could help improve the achievement of students.

Working with teams of teachers from the Mason School in Boston, Massachusetts and Books and Beyond in Solana Beach, California, as well as researchers from the University of Oregon and multiple consultants from the reading and education communities, the Department's Family Involvement Partnership for Learning has developed a kit of materials called the School-Home Links Reading Kit. This kit is available as a companion volume to this Compact Guide, and can be used to launch your family-school-community Compact for Reading effort.

Two teams of teachers developed one-page reading activities for children in kindergarten through third grade, with approximately 100 activities for each grade level. These easy-to-use activities align with the major "Reading Accomplishments" for children in kindergarten through third grade published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in its report, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (see Appendix A). The NAS represents a consensus of national reading experts on some of the important accomplishments students can achieve within a particular grade in reading. Researchers from the University of Oregon further examined state and district standards for reading, as well as research summaries of reading skills and activities by grade, to enhance the NAS "Reading Accomplishments" and ensure that the School-Home Links activities are comprehensive.

 
Sample Reading and Literacy Focus Areas
from the National Academy of Sciences Report

Kindergarten
  • Knows the parts of a book and their functions.
  • Recognizes and can name all uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Correctly answers questions about stories read aloud.
First Grade
  • Reads aloud with accuracy and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for the first half of grade 1.
  • Uses letter-sound correspondence knowledge to sound out unknown words when reading text.
  • Has a reading vocabulary of 300 to 500 words (sight words and easily decoded words).
Second Grade
  • Interprets information from diagrams, charts, and graphs.
  • Rereads sentences when meaning is not clear.
  • Suggests possible answers to how, why, and what-if questions.
Third Grade
  • Reads aloud with fluency and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for grade three.
  • Asks how, why and what-if questions when interpreting nonfiction texts.


See Appendix A for a complete list of reading and literacy focus areas developed by the National Academy of Sciences. 
  
How the School-Home Links Reading Kit Is Used

The Principal's Role

1. Hold a Meeting for Reading Coordinators and Teachers

The first step in using the School-Home Links Reading Kit is for the principal to hold a meeting with the school's reading coordinator and teachers who work with children in kindergarten through third grade.

The principal should discuss the school's reading scores and talk with staff about how the School-Home Links Reading Kit can be used to implement the Compact for Reading and help to raise the reading skills and achievement of children.

Before convening this meeting, the principal should have a thorough knowledge of how to implement the School-Home Links Reading Program and what roles the teachers, children's families, and volunteers from the community can play.

2. Convene a Meeting of Families and Community Volunteers

With the reading coordinator and teachers of children in kindergarten through third grade in attendance, the principal convenes a meeting with the families of their students to inform them about the Compact for Reading and their partnering role. At this meeting, all parents or families can be asked to sign the Compact for Reading as their commitment to work with their own child or children at home to support school work.

The principal introduces the School-Home Links Reading Program as a first step toward implementing the Compact by increasing family involvement in education.

The principal or the reading coordinator discusses the research about the necessary and important role that family involvement in reading plays in students' reading skills and achievement. Plain talk should be used when describing results of studies on parental involvement in reading, so that everyone understands what the research says. (See Appendix B for Reading Fact Sheets that summarize key facts on reading achievement and success.)

The principal or the reading coordinator describes how the Home-School Links Reading Program works, and what roles the principal, teachers, families, and community volunteers can play in implementing the program.

The principal states that in the next week, the first School-Homes Links Calendar (see Appendix C) and School-Homes Links will be sent home.

 
The Teacher's Role

1. Review the School-Home Links Reading Kit

In a meeting with the principal, teachers should review the School-Home Links Reading Kit; suggest how best to introduce the kit to children, families, and other community members who may use the kit for tutoring; and tailor the kit to meet classroom needs. Many teachers will want to supplement or replace some of the activities with their own activities, and they should be encouraged to do so.

2. Participate in School Meetings to Prepare Families to Use the School-Home Links

3. Prepare and Send Home a School-Home Links Calendar

Once a month, teachers will prepare and send home a School-Home Links Calendar (Appendix C). This calendar will inform parents of school and classroom literacy events. It will show the days on which home reading activities (School-Home Links and Book Links) are due. It could show the dates of parent workshops, the days that the school or classroom library is open for children to select books to take home, the visit of a children's author to the school, or the days children visit the public library to take books out. At the bottom of each calendar is the teacher's contact information and a list of times the teacher is available to speak with families. This availability reinforces the essential, open line of communication that your school's Compact for Reading encourages.

4. Send Home School-Home Links Three or Four Times a Week.

In the first week following the school training meeting with the families, send home the first School-Home Link, with two letters attached to the activity sheet.

The first letter (see Sample Letter from Child to Parents) is from the student asking the parents or family to help him or her with the assignment using the method discussed at the family workshop.

The second letter is from the teacher (see Sample Letter from Teacher to Parents) to the family discussing possible sources of books for weekly reading. Some schools have or may want to set up a lending library of books. Rules for borrowing from this lending library and returning books to it should be included in this letter. Typically, children may borrow one or more books for a week, and must return the book or books when the Book Link is handed in.

Three to four times a week, select activity sheets from the School-Home Links Reading Kit that directly support instruction in school. Teachers have the ultimate flexibility in selecting School-Home Links Reading Kit activities that best meet the needs of individual children. Within any one classroom, some children already know the particular skill being taught and do not need further practice, some have some knowledge but need further practice, and others are unfamiliar with the skill and could benefit from a lot of practice. For every grade, multiple skill areas are addressed, with multiple activities for most skill areas. Over 100 activity sheets have been developed per grade. If certain children are performing below or above grade, the teacher should pull activities from lower or higher grade levels as needed.

Teachers can use the coding system at the bottom of each page that shows the typical grade for the activity and the skill that activity sheet supports and develops in the child. For example, if a kindergarten teacher is teaching her students about upper- and lowercase letters, she chooses from the School-Home Links Reading Kit an activity that is coded "Kindergarten/Recognizes and Can Name All Uppercase and Lowercase Letters" (see A Sample School-Home Links Reading Kit Activity).

5. Send Home One Book Links Activity a Week

In addition to doing the School-Home Links Reading Kit at home, teachers should encourage families to read to or with their children five days a week, 30 minutes a day. One of those days teachers will send home a School-Home Links Book Links activity, a special type of School-Home Links that directs the child to think about a special aspect of book reading (see A Sample Book Links Activity). Every Book Links asks the child to record the title and author of one book the child has read during the week with the family, as well as to complete an activity relating to literature.

6. Arrange for Children to Borrow and Take Home Free Books

Because many children do not have enough of grade-appropriate books at home, teachers need to arrange for sources of books for children in their classroom. The librarian from the local public library could come to the school and provide a library card for each child, with a map showing the libraries in the town or city. Schools could open their school library to children once a week for book selection. Or teachers may want to set up a Book Links Lending Library Program--a collection of grade- and ability-appropriate books that have been selected for the children in the classroom and are housed in the classroom--so that all students have the opportunity to borrow and read books each week.

In either case, teachers send books home with children once during the week and, if available and desired, on the weekends. Teachers can give each child a large reusable, plastic, resealable bag to keep the book safe and clean. The bag should have the child's name on it and be used again and again.

7. Encourage Families and Children to Read 30 Minutes a Day

The child reads the book with a family member, completes a Book Links activity sheet about the book, and returns the book to class the next day. Because research shows that reading at least 30 minutes a day helps children become strong readers, it is suggested that all Book Links reading activities be planned so that the students will read for at least 30 minutes. At the third-grade level, teachers may assign part of a chapter book, instead of a full book, to encourage children to read longer and more complex books.

8. Keep a Record of Home Book Reading in the Classroom

A classroom check-out chart should be displayed in the classroom so that each child can enter the date a book is checked out and returned to the classroom. A child typically does not check out a new book until the first one is returned.

9. Help Students Track Completion of School-Home Links and Book Links

Each morning, when students arrive in the classroom, they will hand in their School-Home Links or Book Links activity. You may want to develop a simple School-Home Links Chart where children can post a sticker for every day they complete an activity. The chart is posted in the classroom for the entire school year.

10. Help Families Who Do Not Speak English or Are Disabled

Teachers are encouraged to help provide the necessary support to families who do not speak English or are disabled. Students whose parents speak other languages should turn in their assignments just as regularly as those with English-speaking parents. If these students do not turn in correct, completed assignments, teachers may arrange to:

11. Help Families of Students Who Do Not Complete Their Assignments

When students do not complete their assignments, teachers should continue to emphasize the family's role in implementing the Compact for Reading. This includes working with their children at home and making sure that students complete the assigned home activities. Teachers may use the monthly calendars to remind parents to ask their children about the assigned home activities.

Such reminders do not eliminate the need to develop ways to work with children who do not complete their home assignments. Here is a list of ways to work on this issue:

 
The Parent's Role

1. Attend a School Training Workshop and Sign the Compact for Reading

The principal, reading coordinator, and teachers of children in kindergarten through third-grade will convene a meeting with families of their students to inform the families about the Compact for Reading and their partnering role. Each parent or a family adult should sign the school's Compact for Reading as their commitment to work with their own children at home to support school work. The principal and the reading coordinator will describe how the School -Home Links Reading Kit program works.

2. Ask Your Child to Show You the Monthly School-Home Links Calendar and Display It in a Prominent Place in Your Home

Once a month, families will review the School-Homes Links Calendar to keep up-to-date on school and classroom literacy events. This calendar will show the days on which home reading activities (School-Home Links and Book Links) are due. It could show the dates of parent workshops, the days the school or classroom library is open for children to select books to take home, the visit of a children's author to the school, or the days children visit the public library to take books out. At the bottom of each calendar are the teacher's contact information and a list of times the teacher is available to speak with families. This availability reinforces the essential, open line of communication that your school's Compact for Reading encourages.

3. Work with Your Child, or Ask the School for a Volunteer to Work with Your Child, on the School-Home Links, and Sign Each School-Home Link

Three to four times a week, School-Home Links will be sent home, and once a week Book Links will be sent home. Most activities are addressed to the child, but families of very young children will need to read the sheets for the child.

Families should ask their child to fill out his or her name at the top of the page, then read the boxed areas that includes a message just for the family. It tells the family what the child is learning in school and lets the family know why the activity sheet has been assigned as homework for the child.

Families should ask their child to complete the activity in the middle of the sheet that reinforces work done in school that day or week. Finally, the family should ask the child to sign his or her name at the bottom of each page when the activity is done. The responsible family member will also sign each sheet at the bottom of the page.

If families ever need extra help to complete an activity, they should call the teacher and ask for help, or send a note at the bottom of the activity sheet asking the teacher to help the child that day.


The Role of Community Volunteers

Your school's business and nonprofit community partners can play a major role in the success of your School-Home Links program and, subsequently, your school's Compact for Reading.


Other Types of Activities to Implement the Compact for Reading: Building a Lasting Capacity
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The School-Home Links Program is only one suggested activity to fulfill your reading Compact. It is an unusually effective partnership builder, as well as an effective tool to improve students' learning and achievement, because it calls on multiple partners to improve student learning, communication, and capacity building. However, there are many other activities that can and should be conducted to meet the requirements of your Compact.

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