We know the importance of literacy across all disciplines there are a variety of types of literacy…media literacy, digital literacy, information literacy…it seems like the list grows every day! According to Dictionary.com, one definition of “literacy” is “a person’s knowledge of a particular subject or field.” Literacy applies to every aspect of education, so what can librarians do to include all educators in the building and all members of the school community in a literacy event?
As a middle school librarian, I was looking for an evening event that would bring our school community together. I decided to host a Family Literacy Night. My goal was to include as many different people from the school community in a variety of activities that all centered around the theme of literacy. I put together a small committee to begin brainstorming possible ideas, then I started on the task of getting the teachers excited to participate. A successful event requires participation from many!
As a new faculty member in the school, I noticed we needed something to bring us together. The teachers were working hard in their areas, but little collaboration was happening across the school. Family Literacy Night seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Here are some tips for getting a variety of people involved:
Ask teachers what they want to do – use their strengths and interests. As much as we might want to plan everything according to our interests, others will be more likely to participate if they are allowed to be involved in an activity related to their interests. Our principal was crafty and manned a table where she taught children (and families) how to make their own blank book with a stitched spine. She shared some she had made and encouraged them to make their first entry in their book before they left her station.
Include everyone somewhere – encourage cross-curricular collaboration. Don’t forget the electives teachers. What does literacy mean in their curricular area? Encourage people from around the building to have an activity related to their area. Encourage them to collaborate with people in other areas. For example, does the math teacher also run marathons? Why not encourage a collaboration in the gym with the gym teacher and math teacher? Their activity can relate to math and exercise – easy!
Involve parent volunteers. There are usually some parents who are anxious to help out when they are presented with specific tasks. Family Literacy Night is the perfect opportunity! Involve the parent volunteers in the preparations for the event – designing and hanging signage, setting up the activity rooms, baking treats for the culminating activity. Then encourage the parents to bring their families and participate in the activities that night. This is their night – make sure you have teachers and others from within the school lined up to man the activities so the parents can have fun with their families.
Plan a culminating activity for the event. At our event, we decided to have an “open mic night.” Some parent volunteers turned the cafeteria into a lounge theme, complete with bean bag chairs, strings of lights, and cookies and hot chocolate. Teachers and students were allowed to share songs, poems, and other creations at the microphone. The art teacher hung student art work around the room. We ensured participation by personally asking some students and teachers to participate so we knew there would be something going on. Others were happy to join in that evening. It was a relaxing and fun way to end the evening.
The key to a successful event is collaboration. There is too much to do alone, but an event of this magnitude is relatively easy to pull off if you have many hands invested and excited.
Let’s do some brainstorming: What are some ideas for stations you might include in a Family Literacy Night event? Later this week I will post some ideas for different curricular areas.