Voices Vol 41 No 1

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: Parent/Community Action

Community Action is a Two-Way Street

By Karen Nemeth

In the last issue of Voices I shared some key resources to support parent involvement in education.  In keeping with the dual purpose of our group, Parent/Community Action Special Interest Group, I’ll share some community action ideas in this issue.

I’ve found that some teachers have a relationship with their public libraries and others have not thought to use this resource.  Connecting with a library is a perfect example of this two-way street for parent/community action.  Libraries maintain a mission to respond to the needs of their communities, so they are happy to learn more about the families from different countries that are moving into their area.  The library may have access to funding to buy books and materials that you can borrow for your classroom.  They also have access to catalogs of materials in different languages that we don’t ordinarily see.  Many public libraries subscribe to Tumblebooks which allows them to make stories, games, and literacy activities in multiple languages available on their websites for their members to use free of charge.  You can help the library by informing newcomer parents about the location and services offered by their library and encouraging them to sign up for family library cards.  Maybe a field trip would be a great way to bring families and libraries together for some parent/community action.

Another resource that needs you as much as you need them is your local college or university.  Students in many programs and extracurricular activities need opportunities to work with children or to do community service.  This can be a great way for you to find college staff and students who speak the languages of your students.  Think about supporting their goals by letting them help create multilingual materials for your classroom or volunteering as a reading buddy or science co-explorer with a child who speaks their language.

And, one of the most useful and mutually beneficial relationships you can have is with your neighboring districts.  So often we find that one district has an influx of families speaking a new language and that they spend time and money to create parent letters and student materials only to find out that a nearby district has already created similar materials in the same language.  The more ESL and bilingual education teachers stay in touch with their colleagues, the more time and money they can save by sharing resources.

If you have resources that have helped you work with the families of your students – please share them on the NJTESOL/NJBE hot list or send them to me:

Karen Nemeth, Coordinator of Parent/Community Action SIG