Engaging with parents and families is a crucial part of high-quality early learning. Without respectful partnerships with their early care and education providers, families may feel disconnected or not have the confidence or materials to assist their child on their learning journey. One effective way to engage families in your program is through family literacy bags.
Family literacy bags are filled with interesting books, activities, games, puppets, and other materials that support your chosen theme. Families borrow the bags to use while spending time with their children. Goal Two of the Maryland Early Childhood Family Engagement Toolkit states family engagement initiatives should promote positive parent-child relationships. Family literacy bags are an exciting way to involve families in building their child’s literacy skills.
These bags also engage children who may not have as many opportunities to read or are new to reading at home with their families. Family literacy bags provide families with the tools to embrace their role as their child’s lifelong educator and encourage their children’s future reading success. Goal Three of the Maryland Early Childhood Family Engagement Framework Toolkit states family engagement initiatives should support families as the lifelong educators of their children.
Here is a simple checklist to start family literacy bags in your own program:
- Start small. One to three bags at a time work well.
- Select a theme or themes for the bags. Choose topics that interest the children, promote skills you are teaching, or represent situations that families may be experiencing.
- Purchase sturdy canvas bags. Decorate the bags to make them appealing to children and their families.
- Fill each bag with books and activities related to the theme. Consider purchasing books from local library sales, Craigslist, eBay, yard sales, or secondhand stores to reduce your costs. Remember to find fiction and nonfiction books.
- Create a Family Activity Card for each bag to give the families ideas for using the materials.
- Rotate the bags among the families in your program.
- Give each family two weeks to use the activities and books. Ask the families for feedback on their experiences through open-ended questions such as, “Which book was your child’s favorite and why?” and “Which activity did you and your child enjoy most?”
Family literacy bags provide families with quality literacy resources that they may not have access to as well as send a message to families that they matter to you. When you let families know that you honestly care about them, you are building the trusting relationships that children need to succeed.
Are you excited to try family literacy bags in your program? Share your ideas and pictures of YOUR family literacy bags on Facebook and Twitter @MDEngageEarly, or email email@example.com.