Empower Your Teen for a Healthier Future

Teen STDDid you know that about one in four teens has a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? If left untreated, STDs can lead to pretty serious lifelong problems, including infertility.

Every parent wants his or her child to be healthy. While educating teens about STDs can be a sensitive and challenging task, providing your teen with information and resources about STD prevention is one step towards a healthier future.

With an overwhelming amount of questionable information available to your teen online, we recognize finding reliable information about STDs is difficult. That is one of many reasons that led the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) to develop Know The Facts First with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors.

Know The Facts First, a national public health awareness campaign, is aimed at providing teen girls, ages 13-19, with accurate information about STDs and STD prevention so that they can make informed decisions about sexual health. The campaign’s website, KnowTheFactsFirst.gov, offers a single place for teens to get straightforward information about STDs and how to protect themselves.

The campaign focuses on girls because their bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs and they experience more damaging effects from undiagnosed and untreated STDs (e.g., chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, cervical cancer, and more). However, the campaign is also relevant to teen boys who face the same kinds of questions, worries, and pressures about sex as teen girls.

Through the campaign, teens will see print and video public service announcements and advertisements in malls, magazines, schools, movie theaters and on television and online. Partner organizations also will help disseminate messages directly to teens and adults who work with teens.

When you are ready to discuss sexual health with your teen, the campaign offers easy-to-understand information about STDs, how to prevent STDs and where to get tested. No more deciphering what is really true—you and your teen can learn the facts together. This resource can help teens ask the right questions, engage in informed conversations and in return, have healthier relationships.

This blog post was submitted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.


Team Up and Fundraise the Healthy Way


(Sponsored Post)

“Finally! A school fundraiser that doesn’t involve selling sweets and treats.” This is a common refrain we hear from parents who are tired of the same old fundraiser  that promote unhealthy habits. Fortunately, now there’s a new way to raise more money for your school in a positive, active and healthy way.

Active Schools Fundraising is a new tool to help PTAs, school groups and booster clubs raise money online in support of a physical activity event. Whether it’s a walk-a-thon, fun run or other active event, you can use the online platform to invite team members and ask your friends and family for pledges of support.

With Active Schools Fundraising, your school or PTA group keeps 75% of all funds raised online and 100% of onsite fees, such as registrations or giveaways. There are no start-up fees or costs, so the up-front investment is minimal. That means more money going directly to support your school or PTA.

Interested in starting a run club? This spring, we’ve teamed up with Marathon Kids to offer an additional incentive to choose active fundraising for your next school fundraiser. Here’s how it works: If you register with Active Schools Fundraising by April 1 and raise at least $500 for a 25 member run club, you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of 150 sets of 10 Marathon Kids participant spots. Marathon Kids helps get kids excited about running by providing them with the tools, motivation and support to be active through run clubs.

It’s that easy. Active Schools Fundraising + Marathon Kids run club = a winning spring fundraiser!

Whether you use Active Schools Fundraising for a Marathon Kids run club or another active fundraiser, here are a few more helpful tips about Active Schools Fundraising:

  • For the spring fundraising season, the deadline to register a team is April 1, and you can hold your fundraiser anytime through May 30.
  • Once you create a team, you can customize your team page and add your own messages and photos, or use the messaging that we provide.
  • You can take advantage of special product discounts on equipment, curriculum and programs that improve wellness in your school—offered only to Active Schools Fundraising participants.

Ready to get started? Visit ActiveSchoolsFundraising.org to register a team today and get your chance to win Marathon Kids participant spots!

 Sample Social Media Messaging to Share with PTA Local Leaders


Active Schools Fundraising + Marathon Kids run club = a winning spring fundraiser! Learn more: http://bit.ly/1YCYtwL


Raise money for your PTA the healthy way this spring with Active Schools Fundraising. Bonus: 75% of the funds raised go directly to your school! Register by April 1 and fundraise by May 30: http://bit.ly/1YCYtwL



Take Your Family to School Week 2016: Rock Out with PTA

2016 TYFTSW Poster_FINAL-1Schools across the nation took part in our Rock n’ Roll theme as they participated in this year’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW). From Feb.15-19, 2016 National PTA invited families and schools to “Rock Out with PTA” and celebrate your student rock stars.

We love providing you with ideas for themed events to host. The PTA programs are to help enhance the engagement between parents, students and teachers. A few popular events during TYFTSW that resonated with you were Connect for Respect (C4R), student safety and supporting student success.

The main goal of National PTA’s Connect for Respect (C4R) Program is to prevent bullying both inside and outside of schools. C4R events connect parent and teachers and facilitates their working together to achieve that goal. Our student safety program can be conducted by using National PTA’s Safety Toolkit, which provides overall physical safety tips for children. Last but not least, let’s not forget supporting student success! Showcasing student accomplishments and marking any progress they have made can really boost children’s self-esteem and make them want to continue achieving great things. Hopefully, with the help of our great themed events, we can increase awareness of the importance of education, health and wellness and safety.

During this year’s #TYFTSW16, PTAs took our event ideas and made them their own. All throughout the week, schools engaged in various fun activities, from talent shows to lively science nights. All of the PTAs really out-did themselves this year!

A theme can add a creative twist to your event. It can help boost the engagement of your students and their parents. And that’s what made the events very creative. Barry Pathfinder PTA, located in Kansas City, Mo., had a Star Wars themed roller skating night and a 50s sock hop family drive-in movie night. Wow! In Raleigh, N.C., Centennial Campus Middle School PTSA had a pretty far-out week with their groovy-themed book fair. Now that’s neat!

These schools were able to address serious topics with their amazing, welcoming themes. Barry Pathfinder PTA’s focus was increasing parental engagement. To do so, in addition to their Star Wars and 50s sock hop events, they served a delicious breakfast to students and their parents and informed them of their children’s daily scholastic routine. Centennial Campus Middle School PTSA focused on anti-bullying, test taking and anxiety and online safety alongside their “groovy” book fair. With the assistance of N.C. House Representative Rosa Gill and NCPTA President Kelly Langston, their message came across loud and clear to both parents and students.

Nothing brings a community together better than dancing, food and music. Grafenwoehr Elementary School PTA, located in Grafenwoehr, Germany, had the right idea by having a Just Dance family dance-a-thon! Their main focus was health and wellness. With that much moving around, by end of the night everyone enjoyed themselves and felt energized. A jamboree will do the job as well. That was Racine, Wis. Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School PTSA’s idea. They took the all-inclusive party route and joined the elementary and middle schoolers together, along with their parents, to have a fun-filled day with arts and crafts, food, games and raffles.

TYFTSW events help to get your students and their parents on the same page. It’s better for everyone—students, parents, teachers and schools—when parents understand what their child is learning, especially when a student needs help with their homework. A night filled with math and literacy activities, a student art gallery and science learning are all great ways to get parents involved and up-to-date. Marigny Elementary PTA did just that! They welcomed parents to a night of fun learning to give parents ideas they can use to keep learning going at home for their kids.

Ultimately, the goal of PTA programs is team work. After all, they say it takes a village to raise a child. Parents and teachers have to make a unified effort in order to develop a better learning environment for the children. Participating in your school’s Take Your Family to School Week can get the ball rolling in the right direction! We can’t wait to see what great themes you come up with next year!

Ebony Scott is the communications intern at National PTA.

Department of Education Provides Guidance to Help Reduce and Improve Testing

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance to help states and districts improve the quality of assessments and eliminate redundant and misaligned tests. Of significance to PTA, the guidance encourages Title I schools to conduct assessment literacy nights to increase understanding and communication between families and schools about the use of assessments and how to use test results to support learning at home. Acting U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King Jr., also released this video explaining more about the guidance.

National PTA acknowledges the important role that high-quality assessments play in promoting equity and improving the outcomes of all of our nation’s children. Assessments provide valuable information to parents, teachers and school leaders about the growth and achievement of their students. At the same time, National PTA recognizes the concerns many parents and educators have about the over-emphasis on testing and impact it has on student learning opportunities in the classroom. We applaud the Department’s guidance to help address the current challenges and provide actionable opportunities for states and districts to carry out the work of improving assessments.

The letter to Chief State School Officers by the Department of Education follows President Obama’s Testing Action Plan that was released in October 2015 and identifies key principles for good assessments. While the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encourages movement away from high stakes testing, the Department’s new document provides immediate opportunities for states and districts to take advantage of current federal resources to reduce testing and support more effective assessment systems since the new law will not take full effect until the 2017–2018 school year.

National PTA recognizes that many states are still working to implement high quality assessment systems that seek to provide valuable information to parents, teachers and school leaders about the growth and achievement of their students. The National PTA Board of Directors recently adopted a position statement on assessment that outlines several recommendations that were highlighted in the Department’s guidance such as auditing of assessment systems to reduce unnecessary tests, ensuring appropriate development, reliability and implementation of high quality assessments, clear and multiple means of communication and engagement with families on assessment, improving the timeliness and comprehension of assessment results, and providing adequate professional development to educators on assessment.

As stated in the PTA Board of Directors adopted position statement, National PTA believes a sound and comprehensive assessment system should include multiple measures of student growth and achievement that reflect the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills that students are expected to acquire, as well as their capacity to perform critical competencies. The association has long held that neither one test, nor a single data point should ever be the sole determinant of a student’s academic or work future. High-quality assessments play a vital role in providing valuable information to parents, students and teachers on student progress.

Jacki Ball is the director of government affairs at National PTA.

National School Choice Week: Truth about School Vouchers

school choice

National School Choice Week is celebrated Jan. 24-30. We would like to present facts about school vouchers that are often misrepresented.

National PTA has a long-standing position against school vouchers and is an active member in the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), which advocates for support of public education and against any attempts to divert federal funding to private schools.

While the term “school choice” encompasses many types of choice—including public charter and magnet schools—voucher proponents use this week as an opportunity to push for private school vouchers across the nation. But unlike public choice options, private school vouchers don’t offer meaningful choices to students or parents.

These voucher programs:

  • Take taxpayer dollars away from public schools
  • Fund private schools that are either too expensive for students to afford that lack resources and fewer opportunities than in public schools

Voucher programs funnel taxpayer money toward schools that are not obligated to follow the same standards as public schools. The D.C. voucher program, which some members of Congress are trying to reauthorize now, is a good example of this.

Since its adoption in 2004, the program has received almost $200 million for students to use to attend private schools. Yet, these private schools are not subject to the same standards of accountability, nondiscrimination or civil rights requirements that public schools must meet, including those in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For all of those federal dollars spent, the D.C. voucher program does not produce a good return on investment. Studies of the D.C. voucher program conducted by the U.S. Department of Education have shown that vouchers do not improve educational achievement or opportunities for students in the program.

In fact, the department found that use of a voucher had no statistically significant impact on overall student achievement in reading or math, and that students in the program were significantly less likely to attend a school with an ESL program, learning support and special needs program, tutors, counselors, cafeteria, or nurse’s office.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a bill to reauthorize the D.C. voucher program, which will expire this year. While the Senate did not act on the bill in 2015, we expect to see supporters of the program continue to push for its reauthorization.

Congress may move to reauthorize the program in 2016 despite continuing opposition from the individuals who represent D.C., including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and a majority of the D.C. City Council.

Looking ahead, we will continue to see vouchers pushed not just in Congress, but in the states. Last year, seven states passed voucher bills that either created or expanded existing programs.

School Choice Week is a great opportunity to draw attention to the reasons why private school vouchers are not in the best interest of students and families. Take the time to let your legislators know that you do not support private school vouchers and that they should oppose any attempt to create or expand private school voucher programs.

Jacki Ball is the director of government affairs at National PTA.

Quicken Loans Gives Back to the Community

At Quicken Loans, we take great pride in our community involvement. We’re dedicated to supporting organizations, both large and small, who are transforming the communities where we live, work and play.

In 2014, our team members volunteered over 75,000 hours in areas such as human services, arts, health, neighbor development and education—and we are well on our way to accomplishing that goal in 2015.

More than 2,000 Quicken Loans team members volunteered their time to help rehab Pulaski Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood.

More than 2,000 Quicken Loans team members volunteered their time to help rehab Pulaski Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood.

This past summer, we partnered with the non-profit organization Life Remodeled to take on a weeklong revitalization project in Northeast Detroit. More than 2,000 Quicken Loans team members volunteered their time to help rehab Pulaski Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood.

During this week at the beginning of August, volunteers built two brand new playscapes for children and families to use for years to come. The classrooms within the school were cleaned, organized and painted in anticipation for the new school year.

As for the surrounding neighborhood, volunteers created safe pathways for children to and from school by boarding up more than 500 vacant homes on 300 blocks. 20 homes were completely demolished, while another 21 homes were remodeled.

“I had a great time. Life Remodeled is a wonderful organization. It gave us the ability to do something different and positively impact the community. I loved the instant gratification of leaving the school better than we found it,” said Quicken Loans team member Kollin Currie.

Later in the summer, Quicken Loans was proud to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Downtown Youth Boxing Gym (DYBG). The DYBG moved into a new building, which boasts almost ten times the space as the old one, including room for two regulation-size rings, increased training space, a much larger kitchen, group tutoring areas, computer class space and private tutoring.

Quicken Loans team members volunteered to prepare the building by painting the exterior and cleaning the inside. The ceremony was a celebration of three years of “inspiration and perspiration” on behalf of at-risk kids in the city. Currently, kids who participate in the DYBG program have a 100% high school graduation rate. We are proud to support the DYBG and its initiatives.

From boxing to football—now that the season is in full swing—our team members spent time with Roary the Lion, official mascot of the Detroit Lions, to participate in the United Way’s Meet Up and Eat Up program. This program is dedicated to providing healthy meals to kids who might otherwise be forced to skip meals due to the financial situation of their families.

Kids were surprised to see Roary as they got off the bus at a local market, as he immediately got to teaching them his cat-like mascot ways. He then led the crowd of eager kids in a health program with the help of Quicken Loans team members volunteering their time.

The day continued with a lesson on healthy eating and financial responsibility, where the program Double Up Food Bucks provided each child with $6 worth of tokens to buy fruit and vegetables at Eastern Market. With the assistance of QL team members, the children picked their own food. Based on the smiles of each participant, the day was an overwhelming success.

These are just a few of the initiatives we are proud to participate in each year and hope to help in a PTA community near you. To learn more about the Quicken Loans in the Community initiatives, check out our website.

Learn more about the Quicken Loans Mortgage Insiders Program at VIP.QuickenLoans.com/PTA or call (888) 329-1084.

Quicken’s Loans is a National PTA Member Benefit Provider.

Markers? Check! Notebook? Check! Anaphylaxis Action Plan? Check.

Markers? Check! Notebook? Check! Anaphylaxis Action Plan? Check.(Sponsored Post) Food allergies are on the rise. In fact, an estimated one in 13 U.S. children lives with a food allergy. Do you, or does someone you know, have food allergies? If so, as school routines begin again, be sure to have an anaphylaxis action plan in place.

For “Project Runway” judge, Marie Claire Creative Director and mom Nina Garcia; “Girl Meets World” actor Auggie Maturo; and Chef Amanda Freitag having a plan in place to manage potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies is number one on their check list anytime of the year.

Each of them, and anyone affected by severe allergies, should have an anaphylaxis action plan that includes:

  • Avoiding known allergens
  • Recognizing signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
  • Having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen® (epinephrine injection) Auto-Injectors, at all times
  • Seeking immediate emergency medical care if anaphylaxis occurs

Learn more at EpiPenOnLocation.com.

EpiPen® On Location™ is a national call-to-action for those living with severe allergies and their caregivers to understand the importance of avoiding allergic triggers and having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors, at all times – whether at home, school, work or on vacation.

Nina Garcia, Amanda Freitag and Auggie Maturo are paid spokespeople of Mylan.

EpiPen® (epinephrine injection) 0.3 mg and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors are for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) caused by allergens, exercise, or unknown triggers; and for people who are at increased risk for these reactions. EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are intended for immediate administration as emergency supportive therapy only. Seek immediate emergency medical help right away.

Important Safety Information
EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors contain a single dose of epinephrine, which you (or your caregiver or others who may be in a position to administer EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr®) inject into the middle of your outer thigh (upper leg) (through clothing, if necessary). Get emergency medical help right away. You may need further medical attention. Only a health care professional should give additional doses of epinephrine if you need more than two injections for a single anaphylactic episode. DO NOT INJECT INTO YOUR VEINS, BUTTOCKS, FINGERS, TOES, HANDS OR FEET. In case of accidental injection, please seek immediate medical treatment. Epinephrine should be used with caution if you have heart disease or are taking certain medicines that can cause heart-related (cardiac) symptoms.

Tell your doctor if you have certain medical conditions such as asthma, depression, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, have any other medical conditions, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Be sure to also tell your doctor all the medicines you take, especially medicines for asthma. If you have certain medical conditions, or take certain medicines, your condition may get worse or you may have longer lasting side effects when you use EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr®.

The most common side effects may include increase in heart rate, stronger or irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, paleness, dizziness, weakness, shakiness, headache, apprehension, nervousness or anxiety. These side effects may go away if you rest. Tell your health care professional if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Please see the full Prescribing Information and Patient Information.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA.
Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

For additional information, please contact us at 800-395-3376.

EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are registered trademarks of Mylan Inc. licensed exclusively to its wholly-owned subsidiary, Mylan Specialty L.P. ON LOCATION™ is a trademark of Mylan Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

© 2015 Mylan Specialty L.P. All rights reserved.


Take the PTA’s Family Reading Challenge and Bring your Family Closer Together


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Bonggamom Finds”.

reading with daddy (2)

There’s a saying that goes: The family that plays together, stays together.  It may not rhyme as well, but I think it’s just as accurate to say: The family that reads together, stays together.

From the time our kids were infants, Alfie and I read to them. Even when they would rather chew on a book than read it, we patiently read to them every single night. Those bedtime stories not only helped them learn to read, it instilled in them a love of books that I’m hoping will last a lifetime!

Our bedtime story tradition continued long after they learned to read on their own.  My kids still have fond memories of giggling to Alfie’s crazy impersonations of Dora the Explorer!  The kids are in middle and high school now, but even though we no longer gather in bed to read a book, that tradition has brought us closer in unexpected ways. We now have an updated version of the tradition– every morning at 7:00AM, the kids all come into our bed and we watch 15 minutes of the morning news together. At this point, we can barely fit on our bed (the latecomer always ends up at the foot of the bed!), but we love this time together because it’s a way to say good morning to each other, to snuggle together, and to learn about what’s happening in the world. My kids are well versed on current events, and we use the news as opening for discussing topics like smoking, drugs, bullying, race relations, and other things that directly impact their lives.

Another way we continue our tradition of reading together is reading the same books, then talking about the books together. I love having discussions with the kids about young adult fiction such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Hunger Games!   Do you love to read with your family?  Keep it up — as it did with my family, reading together will pay off in unexpected ways!

To inspire and encourage families to keep learning alive by reading great books together. National PTA and Amazon Kindle are kicking off a PTA Family Reading Challenge this summer. National PTA will empower families with tips and activities that encourage ongoing reading, while challenging them to share photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how and why reading together is a fun and treasured family activity. Go to ptareadingchallenge.org for more details and to sign up!

Tips For Reading to Your Child #FamiliesRead


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “JulieVerse”.

tips-for-reading-with-your-child-and-11-books-the-whole-family-will-loveAbout 2 years ago, the kids and I spent hours laying across my bed while I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to them. Often times I’d notice their eyes closed in a dream like stance, but the minute I’d pause to make sure they were still awake, their eyes would pop open, always wanting more.

Before long, however, my older son learned to read on his own, and read ahead of us, completing the first 3 books in the series. Now a big third grader, he loves reading books on his own. But he still makes time for read alouds, sometimes joining in the reading, but, mostly, listening to my voice take on the characters and storyline.

It’s true that children should learn to read on their own, to not just decode the words but to also comprehend what they’re reading. But just as important as developing those skills is developing listening skills and listening comprehension. A child who only reads to himself misses out on opportunities to hear a different voice or a different method of reading. He also needs to continue to develop strong listening skills to become a strong student in lecture halls, in conversation and in every day life. We all need to learn how to follow another person’s words.

While many teachers assign reading as homework each evening, there are a variety of ways a child can read. Reading aloud to himself or others, reading silently to himself, listening to a story and following along on the computer (like in software such as Rusty & Rosy) or books on CD that have follow along prompts and books attached. Listening to an adult read aloud is a skill that needs to be practiced several times a week so children learn to not just listen, but to read with rhythm and learn to discuss what they’re listening to.

While nearly every story makes a great read aloud, look for books that are written with suspense. Mysteries and adventure offer a higher interest level for children and keep them coming back for more stories. A few great stories to pick up and read with your Kindergartner through third grader are:

By continuing to read with your child you’ll not just share a story, you’ll share moments that enforce a strong bond between you and your child. Enjoy reading aloud as often as you can. It won’t be long until he rolls his eyes and walks away (though I recommend that you keep reading. He’s likely really listening outside the door, or reading it on his own because he can’t wait for you to catch up.)

Studies show that reading daily during summer break is the most important activity to prevent learning loss, especially for younger students. However, busy activity schedules can make it challenging to keep reading a priority, especially by the middle of the summer. In July, National PTA will empower families with tips and activities that encourage ongoing reading, while challenging them to share photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how and why reading together is a fun and treasured family activity. See more at the PTA Reading Challenge webpage.

#FamilesRead: How I’m Encouraging Students’ Families to Read


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Inside Bell’s Brain”.

blogger-image--840605367Reading is a crucial part of a child’s education. Children’s ideas about language and communication, as well as ideas about character-building and coping with life’s obstacles, are strengthened through reading. The National PTA is encouraging reading with their Family Reading Experience initiative this summer, and I wanted to link up with their site to share what I’m doing to encourage my students’ families to read.

Over my spring break, I read one of my (now) all-time favorite books, The One and Only Ivan.  Its story was captivating, and the author brought a true story to a new level of life by personifying the gorilla Ivan.  The chapters were short, but the ideas were strong.  I knew it was a book that I could incorporate into my language instruction with my English learners.
The book was such an emotional read that I’d have to read several pages…and then take a break because I’d become so overwhelmed by sadness, anger, frustration, resentment.  There were so many things that I needed to talk through with this book that I wanted everyone around me to read it too.  I kept studying about how relatively easy the language of the book was for a struggling or early reader.  (Sometimes the transition to a chapter book can be quite intimidating because the text density of chapter books is so much greater than that of picture books.)  The story was captivating, the content was perfect to spur conversation, and the text was empowering.  Then…it hit me!  And I knew it would change everything.
You see, I also teach English classes for my students’ parents.  To truly make an impact in their language acquisition, I know that it means supporting the entire family…not to make English their only language.  (I would never want to do that!  I’m a strong supporter of multilingualism and multiculturalism.)  But I know how important a deep understanding of English is to be academically successful in U.S. schools.  My students’ parents want to be involved in homework, but many times they don’t know where to begin because the vocabulary, syntax, or semantics make the language of homework very difficult.  A few weeks before spring break one of my students had asked me about maybe starting a book club with her classmates this summer, and she wanted me to do it with them.  All these ideas began to swirl around in my mind and soon they took on a life all their own!  I knew what we needed to do…I was going to teach my next series of classes as a parent-child book club, and I was certain that The One and Only Ivan would be our secret to success!
So far, we’ve completed five weeks of class.  We are taking our time moving through the book to talk about new vocabulary, clarify ambiguous structures, study new grammar constructions, and discuss the most meaningful plot and character developments.
My students are demonstrating their own language learning by helping their parents learn English too.  I’m using instructional strategies common in U.S. schools to help my students’ parents better understand approaches they may not have seen in their own education experience.  Perhaps most importantly, the families are reading the same book together and negotiating their own meanings…learning and growing together.  We are connecting with one another over this life-changing book, and we’ve only just begun to dig deep.  In fact, after the first week of class, I had so many more parents and students join that I’ve had to place two more orders of books!
Just this last week we were practicing answering yes/no questions with “because + my opinion/reason” and several of my students’ parents wrote notes to me (completely in English!).  They said that they love English class because we have so much fun and that they are learning so many new things.  I am so proud of their notes and their English, and I could tell from their messages just how much this opportunity meant to them.
Perhaps one of the most meaningful notes to me though was when I knew I had”approval” of my student who originally asked me to do a book club.  By putting our heads together to come up with this new idea, she knew it would bring her family together by reading the same book and spending time together learning English and letting the students share their expertise with the parents.
I can’t wait to spend the rest of the summer reading this book with my students and their families.  I hope that I’m changing their lives as much as they’re changing mine.  I’m so proud of all they’re accomplishing together.  I always tell my students that in my classroom, we are one big family.  That’s why I’m so proud to share with you what my “family” is accomplishing because we’re taking the time to read together!  When families read together, they can do anything together!