To the Editor:
A recent Education Week article asserts that “Parental Engagement Proves No Easy Goal” (April 4, 2012). Indeed, the arguments cited in the article—that principals are already saddled with other responsibilities, that evidence-based family engagement models are few and far between, and that schools generally lack guidance on how to promote engagement—may create challenges for fulfilling Title I requirements in this area. This, despite the fact that family engagement is among our best hopes for addressing the achievement gap.
Partnering with nonprofits might be a great place to start.
Nonprofits exist to help. Yet we are often overlooked as possible partners in solving the challenges educational institutions face.
We do not have a magic wand, nor do we always have stable funding sources. But that does not change the fact that our mission is to help and most of us are pretty good at it.
My own prior research suggests that nonprofit family engagement organizations, specifically, help schools build capacity to engage families.
Case in point, I now serve as the director of programs at Raising A Reader, a national nonprofit family engagement organization that for a dozen years has worked successfully with hundreds of schools and agencies to help hundreds of thousands of families develop and maintain the family-literacy routines we know directly relate to later reading proficiencies.
Book borrowing and home reading routines are established through parent training, practiced regularly with the assistance of a bright book bag filled with beautiful storybooks rotating weekly through the home, and sustained through an introduction to the local public library.
More than 20 independent evaluations demonstrate the effectiveness of our program.
We are just one nonprofit. With the incredible support nonprofits receive from individuals, corporations, and private institutions, we can help leverage the resources, visibility, and support for family engagement that can often be difficult for schools and districts alone to capture.
Let us help.
Director of Programs
Raising A Reader
Mountain View, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2012 edition of Education Week as Nonprofits Can Play Part In Parent Engagement