Are You Engaged?

As PTA members, you know that family engagement is an important part of your child’s successful development and academic outcomes.  You participate on school advisory committees, lead parent advocacy, work with teachers in their classrooms, read all about ESSA and other regulations related to children’s health and education, and inspire your community to support all children.  Family engagement is evolving from “involvement” in the sense of families receiving a one-way stream of information and sponsoring endless fundraisers at school.  Instead, it’s the opportunity to build relationships between two crucial components of a child’s life together–families and school personnel–to further support their successful education, well-being and development.

As a parent, you have plenty of options, depending on availability, interests, skills, and personal constraints, to be engaged.  Many of you are finding ways such as these to do become a part of your child’s school community.

  • Establishing positive relationships with school administrators and teachers.
  • Meeting with teachers about academic and social development goals for your child. If you aren’t exactly sure what to ask your child’s teacher, check the Department of Education’s Parent Checklist to get started.
  • Attending PTA or school meetings to find out about the issues in your school.  Ask questions if other’s aren’t bringing up the things that matter to your child’s success or your community.
  • Volunteering on a committee that focuses on an activity or issue important to you, whether it’s school transportation, safe places to play after-school, teacher diversity, bullying or academics.
  • Voicing your opinion to local and state Boards of Education and local, state, and national elected officials on things that matter to your family.
  • Keeping up with and providing input on your state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. Check your state’s education website to find out about your parent representative and the developing plans.

Being engaged in education doesn’t require endless free time or multiple degrees and in-depth knowledge about schools. You just need a concern for your child and a little bit of time to act on that concern.

We know you are engaged in your schools, supporting your community and the Department of Education wants to hear from you.  If you’ve been recognized for your involvement in education by your state, share your story.  What did you do to garner such recognition? What lessons have you learned through your involvement?  What tips do you have for other parents who want to be engaged in their schools?

The Department of Education’s Family Ambassador, Frances Frost, wants to feature you in an upcoming Family, School and Community Engagement Newsletter, distributed monthly by the Department.  Submit your story for consideration, in 400 words or less, with your contact information to, with the subject line “Parent Involvement for Newsletter.”

Frances Frost is the Family Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as an advocate for family engagement in education and equitable opportunities for learning for all children. She brings the family voice to discussions at a national level and facilitates discussions between the Department, families and family engagement stakeholders.

Vacation and Read Together—Take the Family Reading Challenge!

FrancesFrost2012We’ve followed a boy who lives within the gears of a train station clock. Run with a boy turned superhero when struck by lightning. Solved puzzling cases with kids in a mysterious society. Cheered on a would-be prince restored to his throne. Cried through a first-love trip to Amsterdam. Looked for the lost class guinea pig with twin sisters.

We’ve done all of this from the blanket in the yard, cuddled up in bed and riding in the car on cross-state road trips.

Of course, it’s through the magic of books.

Since the kids were babies, I’ve read to and with them. I want my kids to share my love of reading, for the academic benefits, but also because it’s great entertainment. Books are available on every subject and about all kinds of people on different adventures. They can make you laugh, cry, think and dream. And they’re portable! Especially now with iPads, e-readers and mobile phones.

And summer is a great season to get the kids reading. The long days—hours by the pool, enjoying an ice cream—they all go well with a good book.

As we pack our suitcases for vacation, the kids have two book assignments:

  • Select a book to read—a paper book or e-book. The books have to be long enough to last past us pulling out of the driveway. It’s that easy! Reading is the perfect end-of-the-day, calming activity. Parents can read aloud and let the kids read too. Or everyone can read quietly, together.
  • Select an audio-book for travel time. When we do road trips, we like a story to help pass the hours and miles in the car. The book has to be something everyone will enjoy, so this causes the most discussion and negotiations. It also results in us driving around an extra block before parking, just to get to the end of the chapter and chit-chat waiting for dinner as we talk about what character we like (or don’t) and what we think will happen next.

Summer may not seem like the time for academics, but reading is the perfect lazy day activity. And reading together makes it even more fun. So grab a book, gather the kids and enjoy.

Frances Frost is a wife, mom of four and a PTA leader. She is also an author and the blogger for Just Piddlin’ ( Follow her on Facebook—Just Piddlin with Frances—and Twitter @JustPiddlinBlog. Frances and her family are part of our inspiration for the PTA Family Reading Challenge. Watch this video to learn about how they—and other families—love to read together

PTA Family Reading Challenge

You can be a part of the reading fun this summer by joining the PTA Family Reading Challenge—a campaign to inspire families to keep learning alive by reading great books together.

In July, National PTA will empower families to read together by sharing tips and activities that encourage ongoing reading. Families can participate in the PTA Family Reading Challenge—and win great prizes—by sharing photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how and why reading together is a fun and treasured family activity.