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Family and Community Involvement in Leading Reading

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 14:47 authored by Johnson, G, Anthony TownsendAnthony Townsend
The Australian report by Emerson, Fear, Fox and Sanders (2012), Parental engagement in learning and schooling: lessons from the research, for the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY), confirms that parental engagement in learning improves academic achievement, wellbeing and productivity. Similarly, findings from a systematic evaluation of successful interventions for home-school partnerships internationally (Bull, Brooking & Campbell, 2008) found that children’s learning opportunities are increased significantly when parents are engaged in a joint commitment to education based on a shared understanding between families and schools of the purpose of the partnership and their respective roles, and where parents are positive about the perceived benefits of the partnership for learning. The findings from the six research studies emanating from the Principals as Literacy leaders (PALL) Pilot Project, and its successors in Australia over the period 2010 – 2015 show that family engagement in children’s learning continues to be an issue that is unresolved. It is clear that the nature of the modern family, in many cases with both parents working, sometimes long hours, and with other families not having enough resources at home to make ends meet, makes parent engagement a complex issue. If we are unable to attract more than a small percentage of parents to the school, perhaps we need to think of other ways of communicating ideas to them and encouraging them to be involved with their child in reading at home. The implication of this is that both school leaders and teachers need to have targeted professional development on strategies that enable a full range of family engagement activities to be established (some of which might not actually be at the school or involve reading, at least initially) that will enable families to support their children in the longer term to improve their reading capabilities. Such professional learning would also enable school practitioners to develop strategies to enable them to reach out to those families that are most difficult to engage (such as those from educationally or socially impoverished backgrounds or those beyond the early years of primary school).

I draw upon data from one of these case study schools to highlight the impact and effects of attempts to implement leadership for reading ‘both ways’. I interrogate what it means for a school to engage in ‘both ways’ leadership and create a new intercultural space where both cultures (home and school) are linked, listening and learning from each other. The rationale for ‘both ways’ leadership is that leadership for student achievement in schools with high Indigenous enrolments must connect with and include parents and community members in decisions about their children’s learning. This is not only about informing parents about what they can do to help their children but rather recognising that teachers and parents have wisdom and knowledge they can share with one another for the benefit of student learning. Though the challenges are many, findings from the PALLIC project show that principals, Indigenous Leadership Partners and members of Indigenous communities are keen to know and do more about supporting their children to read. Findings highlighted the importance of:
• a family-friendly environment and trusting relationships;
• leadership being wider than the school principal;
• shared leadership opportunities signalling that Indigenous people’s expertise mattered to the school;
• the principal and the Indigenous Leadership Partners being active learners alongside the teachers with the same
driver to raise community support for children’s learning;
• school attendance and strategies to get children to school such as rewards for attendance, loud music to signal
the start of school, a morning bus to collect students, breakfast clubs and aligning the opening hours of the local
shop with the school’s opening time so that children had the opportunity to arrive fed and ready for the school day
and the community sending children back to school if they were found away from school;
• school-wide program documentation as an anchor for a school with a constant staff turnover;
• a school reading plan with clear standards and targets for children’s achievement;
• cultural traditions planned with community members being an integral feature of the school’s program;
• speaking the language of the community; and
• public recognition of children’s successes


Publication title

International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement




Faculty of Education


International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement

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29th International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement

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Socio-economic Objectives

Management, resources and leadership

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