The Best Ways to Grow Your Parent Participation in Your Head Start Program
Meaningful family engagement in children’s Early Learning programs support school readiness and later academic success. Parental engagement is a critical element of high-quality early care and education. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, to “engage” is “to draw into, involve, to attract and to hold.” Most parents want to be engaged in their child’s learning, and many are able to establish and maintain ongoing and productive communication with teachers on a regular basis. Some families, however, must deal with challenging circumstances that complicate their ability to reach out or respond to program staff.
Here are some best practices for growing your parent participation:
Ask. We know this sounds simple but is one of the most forgot ideas in parent involvement. If you want people to participate, you must ask. The number one reason people cite for not volunteering: “Nobody asked.”
Invite. The best way to get parents involved is to extend a personal invitation. People are most likely to take part in any group when they know someone who already does. Don’t just send flyers home, then wonder why nobody “signed up.” Create situations in which you can communicate with people one on one.
Kudos. Awards, compliments, a simple thank-you. Always let people know that you appreciate their help, whether they just organized a smashing fundraiser or spent an hour selling tickets at the carnival.
Showcase. Display what students are learning and accomplishing. Parents love seeing their child in action, learning, and sharing the product of their hard work.
Make the most of drop-off and pick-up activities. Even though these times can be tumultuous, don’t miss out on opportunities to engage interested parents. Greet with enthusiasm and when possible, acknowledge their arrival in some special way.
Consistent and persistent parent engagement can lead to positive and enduring change for children and families. This will result in children who are healthy and ready for school. Parent and family engagement activities succeed when they are grounded in positive, ongoing, and goal-oriented relationships with families.