Celebrate Literacy With a Family Night Out

Houston ISD created a wildly successful Read and Rise Family Night Out-and you can too!

By Kaylyn Christopher Times West Virginian

May, 2013

Houston Independent School District (HISD) has been working hard to ensure that their kindergartners will achieve reading competency by the time they reach third grade. No easy task for a district that has grappled with the interlinked problems of underperforming schools and families living in poverty.

So the Houston Area Urban League (HAUL) and HISD got together and came up with a plan. If they could get families excited and engaged in reading and literacy activities before their children started school, the kids would come to kindergarten reading-ready!

HUAL and HISD needed to educate parents about the many ways they can help prepare their children to be successful in school. To do this, they chose Scholastic’s Read and Rise program as their model. Read and Rise is a research-based program designed to bring communities together to support literacy development. It includes take-home libraries for every student, instructional materials for parents, and professional development for facilitators to conduct workshops to educate parents about how to use the program.

Together HAUL and HISD hosted a large “Read and Rise Family Night Out” to introduce the program. The evening was split between larger discussions and breakout sessions. Parents reporting back from the breakouts were encouraged to share what they learned by any method they wanted. They could sing, or act out a scene, or share a personal story. At the end of the evening, families were invited to register for the full Read and Rise workshop series, which allows for a more personalized and in-depth support.

Since that first Read and Rise, Family Night Out, 25,000 parents in Houston have been trained under Read and Rise and 120,000 books have been distributed to children.

Click here learn more about Read and Rise.

5 Tips for a Successful Family Literacy Night

Interested in organizing a family literacy night in your community? Here are some of the approaches that made the night in Houston such a big hit.

  1. Make it a big night out with food and door prizes—a family affair that will be remembered.
  2. Get people talking about your event. Are there local celebrities or athletes you could invite? Challenge each grade to have the highest attendance.
  3. Don’t lecture, engage Don't tell parents what they should or shouldn't do. Give them opportunities to participate in activities and share their own stories!
  4. Emphasize the fun! Ask questions during read-alouds and play hands-on literacy games. Show that reading together can build bonds and memories.
  5. Let families know they are crucial literacy partners! In plain language, share the research that shows how families can make a big difference in their children’s school years and beyond.
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