176 Ways To Involve Parents: Practical Strategies For Partnering With Families
reviewed by Yolanda Abel - August 22, 2006
Title: 176 Ways To Involve Parents: Practical Strategies For Partnering With Families
Author(s): Betty Boult
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 1412936691, Pages: 125, Year: 2006
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When educators gather, the topic of parental involvement (or lack thereof) usually enters the conversation. Consider some of the issues discussed: Does it matter? How do you encourage it? Why are parents not involved? What can I do to get more parents involved? 176 ways to involve parents: Practical strategies for partnering with families is a well-organized book that will help you formulate useful answers to these and other related questions.
The author, Dr. Betty Boult, is a former assistant superintendent in British Columbia and currently works as an adjunct professor and educational consultant. This second edition of her book has been updated to reflect new uses of technology, such as e-mail, and the most current research in education. She has streamlined the book to reflect four broad strands that promote effective school, family, and community connections: a) making it happen; b) creating the climate; c) sustaining the involvement; and d) venturing beyond the bake sale.
Dr. Boult frames the need for her book in accordance with the belief that involved parents and connections with the school and broader community support student learning and achievement. She supports her assertions by citing the work of researchers such as Wendy T. Miedel, Arthur J. Reynolds, and Joyce Epstein. In addition, she tells us that we must be aware of recent reform efforts in education in general, and the proposed roles of parents in particular, as we work to establish and maintain school, family, and community connections.
The first section, Making It Happen, gives ideas and suggestions for initiating meaningful family involvement activities, building parental advocacy and promoting the understanding of everyones role in the education of students. Dr. Boult uses research to indicate the importance of school, family, and community connections and their link to student achievement and better school-related outcomes. This section gives tips on how to build rapport with families, help families connect and support one another, and develop a base of volunteers that is responsive to the needs of the school, while valuing and respecting the demands on the time of the families as they share their talents and skills with the school community.
The second section, Creating the Climate, addresses how the school communicates its issues (successes and concerns) to the public, their students, their families, and the community at large. How is the school perceived? What mechanisms are in place for discussion? What action plans will result in the desired changes? These are critical questions that emerge from the reading. She gives ideas that will facilitate schools as they implement, evaluate, and sustain effective actions that are engaging and productive for all concerned.
The third section, Sustaining the Involvement, provides activities for engaging families and the business community in ways that benefit each of these groupsas well as the school and its students. One of the most noteworthy examples from this section is a high school social studies class that sponsored a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens. This is a practical idea that has clear curriculum connections and instructional implications; furthermore, it presents an opportunity to collaborate with a governmental agency and a community-based organization. It also provides the possibility that some of the prospective new citizens could be the family members of students or other community residents.
The last section, Venturing Beyond the Bake Sale, encourages all of us to think outside the box. We are encouraged to make certain that we are developing school, family, and community initiatives to increase the likelihood that all families have opportunities to be involved in their childrens schools in meaningful ways that support student learning and achievement. Epsteins framework for parental involvement is one mechanism for evaluating the types of home-school connections. This type of evaluative process provides a mechanism to determine what is going on and whether we are effectively utilizing our delivery systems to reach as many stakeholders as possible.
Closure is provided by directing the reader to a variety of web sites as resources for building school, family, and community connections. For example, http://middleweb.com focuses on educational reform issues at the middle school level. Middle school is a challenging time for students as they struggle to begin their own identity formation separate from that of their families and the family involvement as it was experienced in the elementary or early childhood years. This involvement seems to decline as both children and parents are negotiating new roles. However, the author aptly demonstrates in her text that family involvement is still necessary in the middle and high school years. Her suggestions are practical across the educational spectrum of P-12.
This is an easy read that I would recommend to anyone working with families or teachers as it provides practical, fairly easy strategies to engage families and the community to support student achievement. In addition, the book is grounded in research without being overly theoretical, often a turnoff for practitioners. Dr. Blount strikes a nice balance between theory and practice, and also provides ideas for both elementary and secondary schools. There is something for everyone in this book.