Erasing Emptiness: The Journey of a Foster Family

Passion is evident in a person’s voice.  A passionate person speaks with an excited rhythm and warm tone.  Their pitch is dynamic and their words flow with ease.

I heard pure passion in Deborah Kemper’s voice today.  Deborah is a true superstar.  She is a wife, parent, career woman, and California’s State PTA Secretary.  What makes Deborah unique is that she is also a foster mom who has opened her heart and home to three foster children.  She felt called to help those in need and has exceeded following through on that goal.

Cliff and kids

Cliff with Capri, Milo and Nowa

On a trip with her husband, Cliff, in October of 2006 Deborah felt called to welcome a foster child into their home while on a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.  Deborah raised two children who are older and now expecting children of their own, but says “We had 5 cars and 4 bedrooms, which were all empty.”  She says, “It was time to help someone else.”  That realization led her to begin the foster parenting process and just one year later, Deborah and Cliff brought Milo, a 7 year old girl who lost her parents to a violent past, into their lives.

Deborah feels particularly close to Milo because she shares a common past with her.  Both lost a parent to violence at the same age and both were separated from their siblings at that time.  She knew Milo’s anger, pain, and confusion.  Since adopting Milo when she was 10 years old, the Kempers have come a long way in creating a new life and new opportunities for Milo and two more foster children, Nowa (age 15) and Capri (age 14).

All three children have been accepted to high school and are making huge strides in their work ethic and grades.  Deborah works with them during the summers to remedy learning gaps caused by patchy attendance in their past.  Now, all three have received awards for perfect attendance.  Milo, now 13, has been accepted into Summit Charter School, which has a 96% college graduation rate among its alumni, a significant difference from the average 50% high school graduation rate among U.S. foster children.


Deborah with Nowa, Capri and Milo

Milo and Capri also participate in PTA’s Reflections program and continue to grow as artists.  Last year, Milo earned an honorable mention for her moving literary work about her experience as a foster and adopted child.  In the moving excerpt below, Milo describes the elation she felt on the day of her adoption.

“A year later I woke up to my mom’s voice echoing through our halls, while she was trying to sing my name, “Milo! Milo! It’s time.  Take a shower and get dressed.”  I had my hair all nice and really curly at first, then it became puffy with curls at the end. The day I was getting adopted February 14, 2010.  The courtroom was filled with chocolate, cupcakes and heart shaped balloons. Judge Lee granted me a family.  Everybody jumping around. No more emptiness. But with pride. Love. Wanted.  Normal. Complete family.”

Deborah and Milo’s story is remarkable, but not entirely unique.  There are currently 542,000 foster children all over the nation.  Though not all foster children have the attention and resources like Milo, they all deserve a chance to, as Deborah says, “grow up to become productive citizens of our society.”  To learn more about foster care, visit CASA and AdoptUSKids.

Ask Membership! Monday

shutterstock_116859331The National PTA membership team answers your questions about membership recruitment, retention, and engagement every month.

Dear PTA Membership,

What can I do to help my PTA keep its members? We keep some each year, but we lose just as many. How can we stop losing members?

Please help!

Maria H. – Miami, FL


Hello Maria,

Did you know it’s easier to keep a PTA member than gain a new one? It’s true. Membership statistics show that you have to put more effort in recruiting a new member than asking an existing member to return.

Membership retention is not about sending a letter once a year to current PTA members asking them to return. Retention starts from the first day you recruit a new member! Here are some quick steps to help you retain members from year-to-year.

  • Encourage engagement now! – Ask new members to get involved with your PTA right away. Welcome them to your PTA by inviting them to an upcoming meeting or asking how they wish to share their skills/talents.
  • Provide useful resources – New members want to know how their PTA membership can help them. Provide tools and resources to help their children reach their potential. Take a survey of your PTA members to learn if your PTA provides relevant tools and resources for your school and community.
  • Keep in touch! – PTA members want to be knowledgeable about their children, school, and community. Keep them informed about events that affect their child. Connect a new PTA member with a returning member to form a “tag-team”, keeping new members up to date on PTA happenings. Email and call members on a regular basis with news they need to know.
  • Ask for renewals – Remind members of the successes your PTA has achieved throughout the year and ask for membership renewal. Sharing your achievements helps PTA members stay connected, understand the value of PTA membership and stay energized! Use phone, email, and social media to ask for renewals. View steps to plan for membership renewal here and download a sample renewal letter.

Remember, successful PTA membership retention leads to a strong membership base, strong school and community ties, as well as a strong pool of potential PTA leaders.  Keep your members empowered, strong, and responsible with engagement that starts on day one!

Best wishes for strong PTA membership,

The PTA Membership Team


Have a question for the PTA membership team? Email National PTA’s membership marketing manager at Type “Ask Membership! Monday” in the subject line, tell us your question, and include your first and last name, name of your local PTA, and city and state. If your question is selected, it will be answered here in the Ask Membership! Monday blog.

Joy Lindsey is membership marketing manager for National PTA. 


Discover Family Friendly Activities in Austin

The 2014 National PTA Convention and Exhibition will be June 19-22 in Austin, Texas– and while it’s a fantastic opportunity for PTA members to network and hear from top experts in the education community — it’s also a great chance to enjoy a new city!


Austin has a bit of everything for the entire family to explore. Check out the following list for activities to seek out while you’re at convention:

Content provided with support from the Austin CVB.

Celebrate Books with Take Your Family to School Week

Blog_Linda_TYFTSW_2March is National Reading Month. Learn more about bringing a literacy-themed event, including PTA Family Reading Experience to your school.

Living overseas in Europe has many benefits like traveling, learning a foreign language, and experiencing a different culture.  But, for Americans living in Germany, finding a good selection of English books is a rare treat.  For some families, purchasing new books is not always in the budget.

When I applied for the National PTA Take Your Family to School Night grant, our PTA decided immediately that one of our events would be a reading night, because we’d already scheduled an international bookseller, Triskele Literary Services, to come to our school for a book fair during Take Your Family to School Week—perfect timing!  What a great way to use the grant money, I considered, by giving students a night to celebrate the love of reading and get a free book to take home, too.

Blog_Linda_TYFTSWOur GES PTA Reading Night was a partnership of teachers, PTA parent volunteers, and community volunteers, including several soldiers from our school’s partner unit, the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.  Volunteers were on-hand to read stories to students, to play word games (Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and word finds), and to help the students make a fancy bookmark.  Students were invited to come dressed as their favorite literary character.  Not only did I see Laura Ingalls at the event, but The Cat in the Hat attended, as did Harry Potter and Little Red Riding Hood.  A few weeks before the event, students were invited to make a poster publicizing their favorite book.  They were invited to create a poster that would encourage their friends and classmates to read the book they loved best.  Over 70 posters were submitted and were displayed during the event, and three lucky winners got to choose an additional book as their prize!

Grafenwoehr Elementary School Reading Specialist, Lisa Heinzmann, said: “The children had happy smiles on their faces as they left the event, clutching and holding dearly, a brand-new book (of their very own) to read over and over again!   There is truly nothing like the gift of a book!”

GES PTA Reading Night was a huge success.  We hope to be able to hold another reading night next school year!  Our second TYFTSW event will be a bullying awareness and education event featuring a special performance of Eddie ‘N Friends, a play by Sadie Burger that will be presented by the Grafenwoehr Performing Arts Center.  Following the performance, there will a chance for questions and discussion lead by community behavior health professionals.

Linda Scheuermann  is the Health & Wellness Membership Chair at Grafenwoehr Elementary School PTA in Germany. On February 20, 2014, GES PTA hosted a PTA Reading Night as a Take Your Family to School Week grant recipient.

ENGAGE! Access Literacy Resources through First Book

Kyle11 (2)

Kyle Zimmer, President and CEO of First Book

Today I am interviewing Kyle Zimmer, the President and CEO of First Book. First Book is a non-profit social enterprise founded to provide new books to children in need. First Book was founded in 1992 and has distributed more than 110 million free and low cost books in thousands of communities.

Hi Kyle and welcome to ENGAGE! Can you tell us why it’s so important for children to have books at home?

Thanks for having me.  It’s no secret that books are the critical ingredient for success – in school and in life. The London-based Institute of Education released a study not long ago showing that children who read for pleasure do significantly better in school than those who don’t – and not just in reading and spelling, but in math as well. That’s something that multiple studies have shown, and it’s something that many of us know from our own experiences as parents.

But there’s an enormous and tragic gap between middle- and upper-class children and their peers from low-income families. Kids in need simply don’t have access to books. There’s one study I often reference – one which never fails to shock – which showed that in some of the poorest communities in the US, there is one book for every 300 children.

What are some of the strategies First Book uses to get books into the communities that need them the most?

There are hundreds of thousands of heroic teachers and local program leaders out there on the front lines in communities across the country, working every day to help kids from low-income neighborhoods fulfill their potential. First Book helps them get the resources that they need – brand-new, high-quality books and classroom materials.  These books and resources allow teachers and volunteers to elevate the quality of their work and implement new curriculum and launch wonderful reading programs.

There are several ways we accomplish our work. Through one channel, we distribute about ten million new books every year that are donated by the publishing industry – we make those books available, free of charge, as we receive them. We also operate our online First Book Marketplace – where educators can purchase the books they need at deeply-discounted prices.  The First Book Marketplace currently offers more than 5200 titles for an average of $2.50 per paperback book – including shipping!

Both of these channels are available exclusively to educators and program leaders that serve children in need.

Many of our PTAs are hosting Family Reading Experiences to help families learn strategies for supporting their children’s literacy. I know First Book has really worked hard to build a platform PTAs can access at Can you tell us how PTAs can register with First Book so they can access all of the valuable resources you have available?

Anyone who works with kids in need can sign up to get books from First Book. We welcome both PTA leaders and members supporting schools in low income areas. Check out to learn more or to sign up for your school.

What about PTAs that are in communities that are not low income? How can they work with First Book to get more books into the hands of kids that need them the most?

A great question! The responsibility for getting books into the hands of kids in need lies with all of us, so we welcome PTA members from all walks of life. There are any number of ways they can get involved, including adopting a local Title I school and holding a fundraiser to help them get the books they need by setting up a First Book Virtual Book Drive. You can learn more about Virtual Book Drives and other resources at

What are some other ways that First Book works with PTA?

The National PTA has created some terrific resources to help families, like the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle. Thanks to our partnership, First Book is able to make these resources available to the 100,000+ schools and community programs we support, so that we’re able to give more families not only the books their children need, but tools and resources to help them make the best use of those books.  Visit the Family Engagement section on the First Book Marketplace to see this and other resources to support family involvement in reading.

First Book is also featured as a resource for in the National PTA Schools of Excellence, where the focus is on reading and literacy.

In addition, First Book has pioneered an initiative that we call The Stories for All Project, aimed at dramatically expanding the market for diversity in children’s literature. We’ve offered this platform and these books as ways to support PTA’s Emerging Minority Leaders, and we’re excited about exploring that opportunity.

Thank you so much for joining me today and for all the work that you do at First Book to support children’s literacy. National PTA is delighted to partner with First Book to connect more children with high quality books. If you would like more information about First Book you can find them on the web at and the First Book Marketplace is at

PTA Reflections – A Masterpiece in Family Engagement

Early March – a time I love at the home office of National PTA. It’s the time when our mission springs to life in front of our eyes: advocates streaming into town from every part of the country for our National PTA Legislative Conference; news stories airing about local PTAs hosting their PTA Family Reading Experiences and PTA Take Your Family to School Week events; and the incredible PTA Reflections® artwork arriving from thousands of student artists who qualified for national round judging.

This is my third March with National PTA. Each spring, I’ve enjoyed pouring through the Reflections finalists – reading, listening, watching – the art appeals to so many of my senses and nurtures my own creative spirit. It just amazes me how students of all ages capture our annual theme in such unique and poignant ways.

But this year it’s different.  This year, I see more than the creativity and interpretation of our student artists. This year, thanks to Pinellas County Council PTA, I see each submission as a masterpiece in family engagement.

A Warm Night Despite the Polar Vortex

Reflections_MichelleAlfredIn January, during the coldest day of the year when even Florida suffered from the bite of the Polar Vortex, I attended the Pinellas County Council PTA’s Reflections Celebration. This was my first local PTA Reflections celebration. It was incredible! The PTA Council, led by President Michelle Alfred, hosted an awards ceremony, exhibit and reception at Pinellas Park High School.

I arrived bundled up and shuffling to the door with a shiver and a grumble. But when the door opened, I gasped with pride at the sight of a room so full of families. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, little brothers and sisters – all there for one reason – to celebrate and support their student artists. It was so inviting and celebratory in that standing-room-only auditorium! I was wrapped in its warmth in a way that gives you goose bumps. I had goose bumps all night. Then I realized this is family engagement in action: PTA welcoming families into the school and engaging them in something we know supports student success – arts participation.

Reflections_ParentsChildI had the honor of sitting with the PTA Pinellas County Council Board, as well as long-time PTA volunteer and Pinellas County School Board Chair Carol J. Cook. As we waited for the event to begin, Chairwoman Cook shared with me her PTA experience and how PTA really helped to shape her civic leadership experience. Later, she greeted the students and mingled with the families. Through this celebration, families gained access to an important school decision-maker and they showed her by their presence – how much families care about arts in education.

PTA Volunteers Pave the Way for Family Engagement Through the Arts

Debi Klein, Chair of the Reflections Committee for the Pinellas County Council PTA, hosted the recognition ceremony. She and the Reflections Committee recruited 33 schools to participate this year, which is an incredible accomplishment. She’s been involved with PTA for nearly a decade and chaired the Council’s Reflections Committee for five years.

Reflections_ParentPaparazzi“I love seeing the creativity that students produce,” Debi told me. “And without the local PTA unit chairs, students wouldn’t be able to participate in this program.”

Debi is right. There are thousands of PTA volunteers across the country who support this program. Volunteers who give forth so many nights, so many weekends, so much energy and enthusiasm to support arts in education opportunities through PTA’s Reflections program. These volunteers are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, educators, community arts leaders and advocates speaking up for every child at their school and collaborating with the community to increase access to arts participation.

When National PTA celebrates our student artists in June, we will celebrate all of you who are Reflections Chairs!  You provide a critical path for family engagement through this program. And more than 300,000 students and families across the country and in US schools overseas benefit from your commitment.

Believe, Dream, Inspire.

Reflections_PrideWhen I sat in the audience that night, I couldn’t help but wear two hats – National PTA staff person and the mom of students in Pinellas County. My heart beamed with joy each time a child swept passed me with their nervous run to the stage to accept their well-deserved award. I couldn’t help but to look back and admire the families – their love, their pride, their snapping phone cameras. I savored each hug I saw – each “I’m proud of you” I heard. And I daydreamed about the day when I will celebrate one of my children in a similar way.

Working at the national level, I don’t get to feel the “mission moment” goose bumps all the time. But when I do – I treasure them. And that’s why I love March – March is full of them!


Do you want to become a PTA Reflections volunteer and encourage student artists to reflect on the theme: “The world would be a better place if…”?  Visit to learn more. Or make an online donation to support the Reflections program at:

Mary Pat King, MS is the director of programs and partnerships for the National PTA. She is also the proud mom of Mason, 5, and Jenna Bea, 4. She and her husband, Eric, are new members of the Cypress Woods Elementary School PTA in Pinellas County, FL.

From Foster Child to Fortune 50 Executive

Steve Pemberton survived abusive adolescent years. Now, he gives insight on what PTAs can do to help other children in the system.

Pemberton picbb (2)Steve Pemberton admits that he should have told his story some 20 years ago. But sometimes recounting pain is as tough as living through it.

The married father of three now lives a blessed life as a Fortune 50 company executive in Chicago. But behind his storybook exterior is the tragic tale of a tattered foster kid from Massachusetts, a forgotten child, a ward the State labeled as “at-risk” before proceeding to shuffle him from one suspect family to the next, each taking him in more for money than love.

In the sprint to achieve his current success, the horror of his past has always given chase. Doing right by his family helped distance, but not shake, the childhood memories of physical beatings and mental abuse that included everything from being forced to rummage through trash cans for dinner to hiding books under the stairs because his foster parents told him to stop reading so much.

It would eventually take talk—not walk—therapy to finally free Pemberton’s heels, heal his pain, and give him the time and space to help others.

ChanceInTheWorld_HighResCMYK (2)“Becoming a husband and a father, my children were filled with questions about my mother and father. Where were they? What happened to them? One question which led to another question, and another question,” says Pemberton, who wrote the book “A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home” (Harper Collins). “So I felt like it was a story that I needed to get down for them. But I also needed to get it down for others in the same situation. I didn’t need to get it down for me as much. Because, while I do believe that you need to be healed, the healing for me came from building my own family.”

Currently the chief diversity officer and divisional vice-president for Walgreens Corporation, Pemberton, by all accounts, is living a very different life than the one initially envisioned for him. He has become recognized as one of the nation’s leaders on matters of diversity and inclusion. Pemberton’s story of triumph over adversity has lessons in ti for anyone interested in the well-being of foster children, especially teachers, parents and counselors who have direct contact with them during their formidable years.

Pemberton was taken from his mother at one-and-a-half years old and placed in the foster care system. “A few days before Christmas,” he tells One Voice. “I never saw her again.”

He stresses that there are many wonderful families who adopt children every day, and many families who love and care for that child, for a lifetime. “But, unfortunately I didn’t find one of those families,” he says. “Or, one of those families didn’t find me.”

Pemberton says that he ended up with families who subjected him to “every kind of challenge, obstacle that you can imagine.”

He felt like a forgotten child. “There’s really no other way to describe it…,” says Pemberton, who later found out that his mother battled drug addiction and died while he was in foster care. “I was completely forgotten about.”

He says that he spent much of his adolescence in fear of what was going to happen on a daily basis. Many times he was beat, cursed, and told that he was a mistake and no one wanted him. “They tell me that no one’s particularly concerned about me, and, everything I experienced on a daily basis affirmed that for me,” he says. “There were no teachers stepping in, no social workers trying to encourage you, and you have your foster parents telling you that you are the problem.”

He said that when he didn’t get love from his foster families, he sought love from social workers and teachers. “Anyone who I believed and hoped would see me as more than this broken boy,” he says. “But, none of them did.”

He admits that most children would simply accept their situation, give in to the notion that they somehow deserved to have a parentless life being physically and emotionally abused by heartless people. But he chose a different route.  “My response to that was to fight back. Fight back through doing well in the classroom, I couldn’t fight them. I was too small to fight them physically. But I could fight them mentally with my love of reading and performance in the classroom. And, as a result it gave me self-esteem. It gave me vision. And, it gave me purpose.”

A relentless reader, Pemberton says that he has no idea the number of books he read as a child. But he does remember a woman, Mrs. Levin, who would bring him books that her children were no longer reading. She brought them in boxes to me,” he says. “She brought them, at least once a month.”

He would have to sneak away to read because his foster parents would yell at him if he was reading rather than doing chores around the house. “They were terribly violent people. And, they had these crazy rules, so I would hide under the stairs to read,” he says. “I loved mysteries. I read Alfred Hitchcock and Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Watership Down was my favorite. Lord of the Rings. They all brought me to different worlds that would move me on a daily basis from the realities of the experience that I was in. In my mind’s eye, I was a conqueror. I was a discoverer. I was an explorer. I was an astronaut. I was a detective. I was all these things that came to me through reading.”

None of his teachers knew of his situation. But since publishing his story, “I hear from them often, and with great apology because they suspected,” Pemberton says. “After reading the book, they realized that their suspicions were far worse than anything that they actually suspected was going on.  And, so what I hear from them is, ‘How come I didn’t see?’ It’s very emotional for them, because I think they look back and see that they could have stopped it all. They could have stopped it. And, because they struggled to act, they didn’t.”

Pemberton says that it is important for child advocates to understand that these kids didn’t create their situation. “They didn’t ask for it. They just showed up. And they showed up through an avenue that has been wrought with peril and difficulty. And, the only question you can really have is, ‘What can I do to help provide you a pathway?’ At PTAs, what I would do is surround that child with a different vision. Because, that is what you need more than anything else. The situation and circumstance that they are either in or have come from, you can’t change that. But, you can provide a different vision, a different pathway.” On a more practical level, we can certainly become special advocates for foster children, or, if it’s within your heart and your means and your ability to adopt, then that is something that you can do as well.”

Because of his good grades in school, Pemberton went on to receive a scholarship to attend Boston College. After going so long not talking about his past, he says that he now cherishes his role as an advocate for foster children. He says that PTAs play a vital role in helping foster children, especially youth that may be in less than desirable situations. ”You can do something. You can act on your suspicions. You can bring a box of books. You can adopt a child. You can become a volunteer. I mean, there is so much that you can do,” he says. “You are not powerless to do anything, particularly through organizations and communities around that child.”

Pemberton says that he hears from foster children every day, thanking him for telling his story, and for helping them understand that they do not have to accept labels or their present condition. “They don’t focus, actually, on the tragedy of my story, because they have their own stories of abandonment and suffering,” he says. “They want to know how you overcame it. What did you do to get through it?”

He said that, while it took some 20 years longer than it should, he is happy that his story is finally out there and his book is getting so much attention. “I wanted the story to get out there, not for the book sales. I’m an executive at a Fortune 50 company, so I’m doing okay,” he says. “But, it’s more for others who [read my story and] say, ‘Okay, I’m going to survive this because he did. He’s telling me it’s possible.’”

Kevin Chappell is a senior editorial manager at National PTA in Alexandria, VA.

Schools Can Be a Place of Stability and Support for Students in Foster Care

EC - FOSTER 403x403For a child in foster care, whose lives are often filled with uncertainty, loss, and deprivation, school is a critical environment for safety, structure, and opportunity. Yet children in foster care face numerous unique barriers to education, such as living instability when children are initially removed from home and during their time in care. On average, a child in foster care experiences 2.8 living placements, which too often lead to school changes. When children change schools, they lose academic progress and leave behind peers and adults they’ve developed relationships with. Thus, school changes can worsen the instability children in foster care already feel in their home life, but now in their school environment as well.

Data shows that students in foster care have the lowest graduation rates, highest mobility rates, and highest drop-out rates, even compared to other at-risk students. But, small changes in how we work with children in foster care can make a significant difference. In addition to the child welfare system, the education system — school boards, administrators, teachers, other school staff, and PTA members – has an important role in supporting the school stability and success of children in foster care. Below are some examples on how schools and PTA’s can provide support:

  • Learn more about the educational needs of children in foster care. Working with your local school’s administration, your PTA can prepare and offer in-service training and resources to school staff about the child welfare system. To see short videos on this topic, see Endless Dreams, Becoming Visible, and It Get’s Awesome. For an example of training for educators, see Meeting the Educational Needs of Students in the Child Welfare System.
  • Identify students in foster care. Local PTA units can encourage their schools to connect with local child welfare agencies and ask them to contact the school when a child is in foster care. Or, ask your school to use enrollment forms to determine child welfare involvement. Then, ensure that the school environment is “trauma informed” and prepared to support children with a history of abuse and neglect.
  • Help children in foster care stay in the same school, even when living placements change. Work with the child welfare system to recruit more foster placements in your district. School PTAs can alert the teacher, staff, and parent community of the need for foster homes.  Also, work with the child welfare agency to think of strategies to provide transportation for children to stay in the same school, even if they move to a new area.
  • Help children in foster care with immediate enrollment in the new school when changes occur. Often, children in foster care experience delays in enrollment because of missing records or other documents. Streamline the process by allowing for immediate enrollment, and work on expediting required records. PTAs can provide supports to caretakers (i.e. relatives, foster parents) new to the school community to ensure a smooth transition for the child.

To learn more about how you can support the educational needs of children in the foster care system:

Kristin Kelly is a Senior Staff Attorney at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. She is a staff member of the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, a national technical assistance and training resource and clearinghouse on the educational needs of children in foster care.




Diversity in Leadership: What’s Your Motivation?

Membership_DiversityBeing a PTA leader is much more than managing duties and responsibilities. Being a leader also includes the ability to identify and empower others to carry out the mission and vision of PTA. One of the questions you may ask as a leader or emerging leader is: What motivates others to stay engaged in the work of PTA?

Do you remember when you started in PTA? Do you remember the motivations that led you to take a leadership role? The first question is easy to answer, but for the second one, you might have to think a little bit more. However, the answer to the second question is why you are still actively involved in Today’s PTA. It is precisely that motivation that others see in you and should encourage them to seek PTA leadership roles.

Your unique motivation helps build a diverse and active PTA leadership team. Motivation comes from the Latin word motivus  or  motus  meaning  “cause of motion”.  The Free Dictionary defines motivation as, “the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.” It is your motivation that keeps us aligned with the vision and mission of the association. Therefore, identifying leaders is not difficult, but it is important to identify your motivations and how these impact leadership growth and development for aspiring PTA leaders.

  • To assess your leadership motivations, ask yourself:
  •  What motivates you to stand up as parent leader?
  • How do you see yourself contributing to PTA one year from now?
  • What do you expect to achieve as a leader?
  • Which areas of your leadership are you looking to develop?

These questions will help you to bridge a relationship with other PTA members and align your motivations to help advance the PTA mission and vision.

Megan, my former PTA leader and mentor, asked me the same questions.  Megan was willing to support my leadership development through challenging personal times. As a minority, I wondered if I was right for a PTA leadership position. Yet, under her mentorship as a PTA leader, I felt confident and secure. Her motivation inspired me!

My circumstances, as a parent with younger children and limited time, were not a barrier because Megan helped me assess my unique motivations and focus on my leadership potential. In time, I returned the favor by identifying another emerging PTA leader!

Seeking diverse leadership is rewarding. It is how we grow Today’s PTA. I wish you much success in your current PTA leadership role or path to leadership.

Armen Alvarez is the multicultural membership development manager for National PTA.

March is National Reading Month

March is National Reading Month!

To celebrate National PTA is offering some fun resources to help your family gather around a good book!

Bring a PTA Family Reading Experience Event to Your School

FRE BLOG  Banner_NEWAre you looking to host a literacy-themed event at your school for National Reading Month? The PTA Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle is a set of free activities and tools in English and Spanish to organize events that engage the entire family in improving reading skills for students between kindergarten and fifth grade. Family Reading Experience offers tools for students grades K-2 and 3-5.  It’s a wonderful experience for families, teachers, and parents alike. There are six different stations that highlight literacy and learning. Families visit stations that highlight all of the literacy domains—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary—using both physical books and e-books. Download Activities.

The Latest Story Time Read with LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow

For more than 30 years, Reading Rainbow and host LeVar Burton have inspired children to explore new worlds though reading. In this new video, LeVar reads poems about books and reading with a group of elementary students.



A PTA Family Favorite

PTA Reading Tips and Family Favorites

Are you having a hard time getting your child to pick up a book and read? Here are PTA’s top ten tips to help inspire your child with a love of reading. Sometimes all they need is the right book. The right book can serve as a gateway to new experiences — and to a lifelong love of reading. National PTA surveyed our  members about the books their families love to read together, and here are the results.

Think something is missing? Leave your family’s favorite book to read together in the comments.