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Guest blog: Engaging families using the 5Rs

By Guest Blogger

By Margaret Caspe and M. Elena Lopez of the Global Family Research Project. Global Family Research Project is pleased to share tips on tapping into students’ greatest resources - their families. Please feel free to use the visual on the 5Rs in your own materials and outreach.

A second grader named David, his parents, and his baby sister walk into a library and are transported into space.

No, it’s not the plot for a new edition of the Magic Tree House.

It’s STAR_Net—a project that supports libraries in providing hands-on, interactive science and technology learning experiences for their communities. Here’s what happened:  

David’s afterschool instructor reached out to invite families to a local library event on a Saturday afternoon after parents expressed interest in enrolling their children in programs focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). On the day of the event, librarians and afterschool instructors talked with the families about their knowledge of particular space and STEM concepts. David and his dad built a model solar system and his parents were able to connect to other families by competing in a quiz show game. In essence, the library and afterschool program worked together to reimagine how afterschool programs provide learning opportunities that involve families in meaningful ways.

These processes—reaching out to families, raising up their interests, reinforcing their knowledge, allowing them to relate to each other, and reimagining services and programs—are important ways that afterschool programs and libraries can jointly enage families in children’s learning. At Global Famiy Research Project, we call these the 5Rs. When afterschool and library leaders convey the value of family engagement and support a climate of innovation with the 5Rs, it becomes possible to design exciting learning experiences for the whole family.

Why the 5Rs?

Family engagement is linked to school readiness, higher student achievement, better social skills and behavior, and increased likelihood of high school graduation. Investing in family engagement can also be cost effective. Schools would have to spend $1,000 more per pupil to reap the same gains in student achievement that an involved parent brings.

Developed with the Public Library Association, the 5Rs framework offers afterschool programs and libraries a fresh approach to designing experiences through which students and families can explore and extend their learning. It stretches the imagination to consider the many ways to reach out to families and build the trusting relationships that undergird learning.

Collaboration between afterschool programs and libraries can be powerful.

For example, the Martin Public Library in Pennsylvania partners with York City Schools to provide afterschool programs that include healthy meals and invite family participation in children’s art exhibits and cultural performances. In Tennessee, the Nashville After Zone Alliance partners with the Nashville Public Library to offer a week-long series of afterschool Family Literacy Nights, where students and families learn to make books, write stories, and play vocabulary games. In Michigan, the Ypsilanti District Library partnered with local afterschool programs to develop a plan for a pop-up science museum.

The 5Rs provides a mechanism to explore and reimagine—in the spirit of STAR_Net—how all families, even the hardest to reach, can be meaningfully engaged in children’s out-of-school learning. To learn more about the 5Rs and other afterschool-library collaborations, and visit Global Family Research Project’s Libraries for the 21st Century: It’s a Family Thing.

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