Volume 5|March 3, 2020
Founder's Focus : Engaging Families on the Importance of Early Literacy Development
In this month’s Learning Series, we’ll be sharing information on early literacy development and how families can help build these critical foundational skills. It’s a timely subject! The ongoing debate regarding how children acquire literacy skills seems to have reached a new plateau, prompted in part by last fall’s NAEP scores showing declines in reading achievement for students in most of the country. The widely used Balanced Literacy approach and accompanying Units of Study curriculum developed by Columbia professor Lucy Calkins has been highlighted as a possible culprit. While Units of Study is celebrated by teachers for its ease of use in the classroom and focus on instilling a love of reading, it has received sharp criticism for not emphasizing foundational literacy skills. In response, state and local education systems have begun to shift focus toward developing skills, like phonemic awareness, while building students’ content knowledge. 

When I look at the literacy debate I wonder, “What does it mean for parents?”

The debate means that parents will need help grappling with conflicting information. Parents are still guided to use tools like the “ five finger rule ” when picking books for their children, even when such tools directly contradict new learning standards that require students to interpret complex texts. As a result, schools, community partners, out-of-school service providers, and learning apps may all be sending mixed messages about how parents can and should support their child’s reading. 

Schools making the shift to emphasizing foundational literacy skills and content knowledge should also consider how families and community partners are supporting efforts to help more children learn to read, and soon, read to learn. While planning these shifts, take a moment to evaluate whether your partners are supporting (or contradicting) your new approach. If you find there are no strategies in place to inform families as you implement a new curriculum, then consider adopting tools like FASTalk to share tips and learning activities aligned to your curriculum. 

I’m curious to hear from you. How are you approaching literacy instruction? How are you partnering with families and community organizations to help more kids read? Join the conversation on Twitter at @FamilyELab or Facebook at @ilovefastalk .


Vidya Sundaram
Co-Fou nder, Family Engagement Lab
FASTalk Connection : Engaging Families in Early Literacy Development
From Pre-K through fifth grade, FASTalk has the earliest learners and their families covered. We proudly serve Frog Street and Teaching Strategies GOLD in Pre-K and Adelante, ARC Core, CKLA, Collaborative Literacy, EL, ELA Guidebooks, Fountas and Pinnell Literacy, TK Seeds, and Wit & Wisdom in grades K-5. Our PK-5 literacy activities for families combine the knowledge and skills students are working on during their reading lessons, along with the social and behavioral skills that are so integral to early literacy development. Learn more at familyengagementlab.org .
News You Can Use : Engaging Families on the Importance of Early Literacy Foundations
Family Talk : What are parents saying about FASTalk? Join the conversation and share their thoughts with us.
I like how I get information about my son's school work and what's going on in school/class. I work a lot trying to provide a better future for my son & FASTalk keeps me in loop with everything. 

-Parent of a first-grade student 
Oakland Unified, California
FASTalk’s after school activities are great for parents to stay engaged in their kid’s learning process.

-Parent of a third-grade student
St Charles Parish, Louisiana

Featured Partner : Greater Good Science Center

Through a grant from the Greater Good Science Center, Family Engagement Lab launched a FASTalk pilot in 2018 to help kindergarten students build prosocial skills like generosity, gratitude, and forgiveness in combination with literacy and core academic skills. The pilot is part of Greater Good Science Center’s Raising Caring, Courageous Kids initiative to help parents raise kids committed to the well-being of others. 

Since its initial nine-week run during the 2018-2019 school year, the pilot has served nearly 300 kindergarten students and their families in three schools in Alameda, CA. Parents in the pilot have reported that the text messages have helped them learn new ways to support reading, writing, and character development at home. Parents also reported that they believe the messages are benefiting their child’s learning, with one parent noting that the texts prompt “more meaningful conversations” with their child.
Share the Good News
As leaders of family engagement, we encourage you to become a part of the conversation by sharing one of the following posts on social media, or using them as inspiration for your own unique post.
Did you know that #FASTalk is the only evidence-based texting tool aligned with high-quality ELA curriculum? Learn more .
#familyengagement #FASTalkFamilies
From pre-K through 2nd grade, #FASTalk has the earliest learners and their families covered. Our activities combine the knowledge and skills students are working on in class, along with the social and behavioral skills that are integral to early literacy development.
Contact Us
Have questions? Email us at felcommunications@fastalk.org .
Don't forget to follow us on social media for the latest tools and resources to support family engagement.