IN STUDY after study, researchers have discovered that in order for children to perform well in school and succeed academically, parents have to be actively involved in their child's education. Here are some of the findings of major research into parental involvement reported by the National Education Association:
- When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school – and the schools they go to are better.
- The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from preschool through high school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income, education level or cultural background.
- Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than is math or science. Reading aloud to children is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success. Talking to children about books and stories read to them also supports reading achievement.
- When children and parents talk regularly about school, children perform better academically.
- Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child's time; helping with homework; and discussing school matters.
- Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling.
Unfortunately, with today’s hectic lifestyle, many parents feel they do not have the time to be actively involved. The good news is that no matter how little time you have, you can be a part of your child's education because the term parent involvement includes several different forms of participation in education and with the schools.
Parents can support their children's schooling by providing encouragement, arranging for appropriate study time and space, modeling desired behavior (such as reading for pleasure), monitoring homework nightly, actively tutoring their children at home, reading to them, and limiting TV viewing on school nights. They can also discuss their children's progress with teachers and attend school functions and parent-teacher conferences. Or, they can simply ask their children, "How was school today?" every day. By asking the question daily, children will get a clear message that their schoolwork is important to you, and you expect them to learn.
Outside the home, parents can become advocates for better education in their children’s school, community and island. They can volunteer to help out with school activities or work in the classroom. Or they can take an active role in the governance and decision making necessary for planning, developing and providing an education for the community's children.
The research overwhelmingly demonstrates that parental involvement in children's learning is positively related to achievement, and the more intensively parents are involved in their children's learning, the more achievement occurs. This has been found true for all types of parental involvement in children's learning and for students of all ages.
While some parents and families can be involved in a child's education in many ways, others may only have time for one or two activities. Whatever the level of involvement parents can have, they should be consistent and stick with it because it will make an important difference in their child's life.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.E., MA, is a teacher with 23 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.