Friday, November 10, 2017

Families Learning Conference

I was recently fortunate enough to be sponsored to attend the Families Learning Conference in Arizona.  While the overall conference isn't specific to libraries, a lot of librarians attended and there were a few sessions focused on encouraging other organizations to work with libraries to promote family learning.

Below were a few of the highlights for me.

The New York Department of Youth and Community Development presented on their new "Circles of Support" framework.  I'm not sure how long this link will be live, but check it out here.  Basically they realized that they needed entire family engagement for their individual programs (youth services, workforce development, homeless youth, juvenile justice etc.) to be successful.  So they revamped all departments in order to create a larger department that works together for birth through senior life.
The three guiding principles of their new framework were Participation, Communication and Partnership.  Some key points under increasing family participation stood out as especially applicable to us:
  • Greet other families as they come through your doors
  • Conduct outreach– call families to invite them to events, post flyers and brochures in schools and around the community
  • Welcome and introduce new families at workshops, classes, or events
  • Provide new families with information about programs and agency events
  • Help staff with event logistics– set up a meeting room or training space, make copies
  • Take photos at events and during programs for websites and newsletters
  • Cook/bake food for events
  • Decorate or clean up at events and workshops
They offer a look at how to create a Family engagement road map here.
Another great session was on media mentorship and how we engage families in the digital age.  Some key points:
  • Parent media use is the STRONGEST predictor of child media habits.
  • The more you connect, the less you connect.  (Works both ways)
  • Children are learning from us parenting without presence, that we are "never done" with our work.
  • Families need: media mentors, including messages from us that encourage, empower and nudge without shaming, more descriptions of what they can do instead of what they are doing wrong..
  • Share these ideas with parents:  Spend more time mentoring with digital media and less time monitoring.  Don't worry so much about time spent on media, but focus instead on using it appropriately.
  • We owe our children a diverse and rich life experience, so focus on living well with media.
New AAP guidelines are the optimum.  Don't shame families who can't attain this:
  • No screens under 18 mos. unless video chatting.
  • 18-24 months introduce high quality digital activities you do together.
  • 2-5 years, 1 hour per day of high quality that you watch or play together. (Most families will find this unrealistic.)
  • Using media together improves learning (an easy nudge)
  • Think of a child's day-12 hours awake to include family time, eating, outdoor play, imaginative play, time to get bored.
Older children also act as media mentors.  Remember the closer to bedtime screens are used, the more sleep disruption and fatigue you will see.
Detroit Word Gap Initiative
This session was the closest to what SPARKS! is attempting in La Crosse.  Several agencies and organizations in Detroit worked together in two of Detroit's poorest neighborhoods to address the word and achievement gap.  Their plan was to intensively engage 150 families over two years.  They implemented that plan with:
  • A multimedia campaign in English and Spanish to raise awareness about the importance of words
  • Using focus groups (most families had never heard of the word gap and were immediately interested in improving their children's outlook.)
  • Engaging 100 local businesses to create book areas in each and hang posters/ engagement activities around literacy
  • Three key phrases "Words Build a Community" "Words are Songs" "Words are Love" were featured.
  • Local businesses created word rich play spaces.  Businesses had to apply, including two sentences on how they would maintain the program after two years.  Toys, books and shelves were provided for the initial 2 years.
  • They did text and Facebook pushes with literacy tips.  Find the FB page at Say and Play with Words for an idea of how they engaged families there.
Effective After School Literacy was pretty focused on school learning programs, but a couple of highlights
  • Low income families believe that they have an equal role in their child's learning AND are more willing to be trained as reading tutors for their children than any other measured category in the study.
  • Libraries are great at helping children love reading, but bad at helping families teach children to read or improving skills
  • To learn to read, children need to understand the rules of how print works, they need to understand how to manipulate sounds, how to connect letters to sounds, and how to read smoothly and accurately.  1 to 1 tutoring, teaching skills and involving parents is the only thing that works.
If you'd like to learn more about any of these sessions, please let me know!  Eventually slides should be available as well.

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