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Building a Home–School Connection Through Take-Home Books

By Stephanie Laird
 | Aug 01, 2017
Literacy BagsFor the past three years, I have served as an instructional coach at a Title I elementary school. One of my responsibilities is to help facilitate parent and community outreach, therefore I’m always on the lookout for new ways to strengthen the home–school connection and reading strategies and activities that parents can try at home.

In the past, I had used social media, brochures, and our Title I night as connection opportunities, but I still hadn’t seen the impact on student achievement or motivation that I had hoped for. Recognizing the importance literacy and a love of reading play in our students’ lives, I began to brainstorm how I could reach out to families every month, ensure the students have a quality home reading library, and partner with parents to provide reading opportunities at home. 

It was during this brainstorming session that I came across the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and applied for a Literacy Outreach Grant. The online application process was simple; there’s a multipage form consisting of open-ended questions about the project and general information. I submitted the application and we were fortunate to receive $2,000 to use for the 2016–2017 school year. I reapplied to receive additional funding for the 2017–2018 school year, and this year's grants will be announced in September. 

Thanks to the grant, our kindergarten through fifth-grade students receive a literacy take-home bag every month, which contains a new book and at-home resources (such as links to relevant websites and apps, discussion questions, main idea dice templates, and a reading version of Bingo). To date, we have been able to add more than 1,500 new books (which do not have to be returned) into the home libraries of our students. Studies have shown repeatedly that the simple act of providing resources and/or literacy activities positively impacts student literacy achievement. 

I purchased the books from Scholastic, which allowed us to maximize the amount and variety of books we could get with the grant funding. I made sure to have a balance of fiction and nonfiction titles, such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Ramona, Frindle, and The One and Only Ivan. 

Since starting the program in September 2016, we have seen an increase in student motivation to read, academic achievement, and parent involvement. I have had parents contact me to thank me for involving them in their child’s reading, and to share how great it is to see their child sit and enjoy reading. We have students who, in the past, would open a book and pretend to read, and some who would openly share that they had never read an entire chapter book. As a teacher and instructional coach, this stuck with me, and now when I come to deliver the take-home bags every month, it's these same students cheering and rushing over to get a bag. A day or two after the bags have been taken home, I have students come up to me and share what the book was about and ask if I know the title of the book they'll get next month. 

With additional grant funding, I plan to expand the Literacy Take-Home Bag program to include additional areas of literacy as well as include our preschool students and families.. I want to ensure every student has a solid, and early established, foundation of literacy, and this begins in the home. 

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation offers grants for summer, family, youth, and adult literacy programs. Funding ranges from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the program. I encourage you to visit dollargeneral.com for more information and to apply for a grant to impact literacy in your school or community. 

Stephanie LairdStephanie Laird is an ambassador and advocate for education, literacy, and teacher leadership. Currently, she is an instructional coach, a member of the Board of Directors of ILA, and president of the Iowa Reading Association. She shares her ideas with educators through social media, professional writings, and by facilitating adult learning nationwide. To connect with Laird, follow @LairdLearning on Twitter or visit LairdLearning.weebly.com. 

1 comment

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  1. Nadia Erriah | Aug 12, 2017

    Hi Ms. Laird,

    I have had the good fortune to work for a Title 1 school.  The school participated in a grant by the Justin and Kate Rose Foundation (famed golfer) where students were able to order up to $7.00 worth of books to take home and start or add to their own library each month.  Students, as I have experienced first hand, were motivated readers and that state of being was directly related to the books they received.

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