Help HP donate up to $3,000,000 this school year

With the HP Pays Your PTA online fundraiser, parents and students get easier access to printing and you can raise money for your PTA at the same time.  

PTA representatives can sign their schools up and then HP will give you a toolkit, including an email and flyer, so you can get the word out. Plus, you’ll receive a unique link that anyone in your school or community can use to enroll in Instant Ink. 

Anyone who signs up for HP Instant Ink using your unique link will automatically earn $10 for your school’s parent teacher organization. 

For more information on HP Pays Your PTA, please visit HP.com/PTA.  

Dos and Don’ts for Dads Who Want to Volunteer at School 

It may be a little ambitious to say we are “Post-COVID,” but I think we can all agree that this school year has been an improvement over the enormous uncertainty we faced in 2020. Regardless of the challenges still facing us, one thing remains constant. Our kids need our active support and encouragement—at school and at home—now more than ever.  

Studies show that children who have fathers or male role models involved in their education are… 

  • more likely to get better grades 
  • have better verbal and problem-solving skills 
  • do better on achievement tests; demonstrate a higher tolerance for stress and 
  • are more likely to have positive peer relationships.  

So, I wanted to talk with someone who is committed to increasing male engagement at the local and state levels, especially as we plan for life after COVID. James Strickland is a business owner, husband and father to three school-aged children. He also serves as the Texas PTA Male Engagement Liaison, and as a “WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) TOP DOG Extraordinaire,” which means that he provides training and support for registered WATCH D.O.G.S. schools.  

Our conversation covered all sorts of things fathers and father-figures should consider if they want to volunteer, but James kept coming back to a single point—he felt that the number one thing any volunteer can do right now is to have their priorities in line. If your primary goal is to serve the kids and the school, then you need to abide by and work within whatever guidelines your school has provided. Teachers and administrators have tough jobs under the best of circumstances, and navigating the ever-challenging, ever-changing COVID-19 protocols has only made their jobs more difficult. 

Here are just a few “Dos and Don’ts” for you to consider as a school volunteer, especially during these challenging times. 

Do 

  • Ask how you can help! Especially during these times, schools need PTA members and volunteers need support. Even simply offering a listening ear might have more impact than you can imagine. 
  • Make volunteering a priority. Regular volunteers are some of the busiest people we know, and they always have somewhere else they could be. One of their superpowers is knowing how to prioritize their time to help others. 
  • Always follow the current volunteer guidelines of your district and school, especially regarding COVID-19. Remember that every decision and rule your superintendent, principal and teachers make is in serious consideration of your students’ safety.  
  • Set a good example for the kids. Be cheerful and encouraging. We hear from educators regularly that the current situation is adding additional stress on many students. Your influence can make a huge difference in the quality of their school day.  
  • Thank every person who works at the school when you have the opportunity. Certainly, the teachers and the principal, but also the secretary, school nurse, lunchroom staff and custodians. A simple “Thank you for everything you do for these kids,” will make a huge difference. 
  • Keep in mind that family engagement at school actually begins at home. Make time every day to ask your child about school. Be aware of their social, emotional and academic successes and challenges. 
  • Remember that the Teachers and Principal are your partners in your child’s education. Having a good relationship with them will make everything flow a little easier and contribute to the best possible outcomes for your child. 

Don’t 

  • Underestimate the power of simply showing up and asking how you can help.  

The bottom line is this: Our kids need us. We can maintain and grow robust and effective family and community engagement in our schools, as long as we work together and keep the best interests of the kids in mind.  

Our kids deserve the best educational conditions we can provide, and the support of moms, dads and grandparents will make a huge contribution to a positive and productive learning environment. Make the commitment to volunteer today! 


Eric Snow is the president and co-founder of WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students). 

We Can Do This

Building Vaccine Confidence by Engaging Parents

This January, National PTA launched an urgent grassroots effort to keep our children healthy and in school by building vaccine confidence in local communities. Funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the We Can Do This campaign is a nationwide effort to reach individuals and families facing barriers or hesitancy regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.

National PTA, whose 125-year history includes a long track record of public health advocacy and considerable grassroots organizing throughout the pandemic, is well positioned to help tackle this work. Nineteen state, regional and local PTAs have stepped up to lead information campaigns, community conversations, and vaccine clinics over a six-week period.

A Local Approach to a National Challenge

Reasons for vaccine hesitancy vary widely, and local PTA leaders understand the specific, often nuanced concerns in their communities. Each participating PTA is designing an outreach approach that makes sense locally. That could mean overcoming logistical barriers by hosting a pop-up clinic at a school or opening channels to accurate vaccine information from trusted sources that can be shared in the carpool lane, at sports team practices, at the community center or in houses of worship, or on Zoom.

In every case, the conversations are judgment-free: National PTA believes families have a right to ask questions and express their vaccine concerns without feeling shamed. However, we also believe that implementing layered prevention strategies is critical to protect students, teachers, staff and other members of their households, particularly those who are not fully vaccinated. And research supports that increasing vaccination rates lowers the spread of COVID, reduces serious illness, and shortens length of infection—making voluntary vaccination a key strategy for keeping schools open and maximizing critical in-person learning time for students. (Note: National PTA does not have a position on COVID vaccine mandates.)

In Norman, Okla., Adams Elementary PTA is planning a “community love”-themed pop-up vaccination clinic in mid-February. They’ve selected an accessible location (the high school parking lot) with drive-through and walk-up options and have partnered with local businesses—including a toy store and a bakery—to offer food and other kid-friendly incentives. Adams Elementary PTA made it a priority to bring in a partner that could increase comfort among the community’s Spanish speaking population; bilingual staff from a local pediatric practice will be on site to answer questions. The PTA is working closely with a large lab company that will handle all the clinical components (e.g., vaccine doses, nurses, etc.).

Around 600 “shots in arms” are expected to be delivered at this one pop-up clinic. Ultimately the goal is “keeping kids healthy and in school as many days as possible,” says Christel Wesley, Adams Elementary PTA President, “which means that our kids are getting food, growing academically, and their social and emotional needs are being met.”

The Serious Work PTAs Were Built to Do

The thoughtful, locally attuned organizing happening in Norman, Okla., is exactly why We Can Do This chose National PTA as a partner. “Our goal with the public education campaign is to reach as many people as possible with accurate, science-based information about COVID-19, especially vaccines and boosters. We want them to have the information they need to make decisions on how to protect themselves, their families, and their communities against the worst outcomes of COVID-19,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States. “By working with trusted community partners who serve a diverse range of community members, such as the PTA, we can meet people where they are and help ensure that people feel confident making informed decisions about their health.”

While most of this activity is being organized in (and for) individual local communities, National PTA recently hosted a virtual event with the US Surgeon General, community organizations, and fellow PTA leaders on February 2 to address common questions about the vaccine and to share specific actions that PTAs everywhere can take to increase vaccine confidence in their communities.

This is challenging, fast-moving work that National PTA expects to have a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of students across the country. We look forward to sharing more stories and outcomes from our PTAs in the months ahead.

Learn More and Take Action

If your PTA is looking to maximize in-school student learning days by addressing vaccine hesitancy, check out the updated COVID-19 Resources page for useful materials and guidance.

And if your PTA is interested in hosting a community vaccination site, check out this resource. Hosting a vaccination clinic is easier than you think!

National PTA Grantee Cohort

State PTAs

  • Alaska
  • Washington

District, Council, and Regional PTAs

  • Miami Dade County Council (Miami, Fla.)
  • Montgomery County Council (Rockville, Md.)

Local PTAs

  • Adams Hill Elementary (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Adams Elementary (Norman, Okla.)
  • Bethesda Elementary (Durham, N.C.)
  • B.M. Williams Primary (Chesapeake, Va.)
  • Crestwood Intermediate (Chesapeake, Va.)
  • Forest Ridge Elementary School (Laurel, Md.)
  • Lawrence Number 2 School (Inwood, N.Y.)
  • Little Run Elementary (Fairfax, Va.)
  • Loftis Elementary (Hixson, Tenn.)
  • Martha Lake Elementary School (Lynnewood, Wash.)
  • Oak Grove Elementary (Bloomington, Minn.)
  • Ruth Oliver Walker Elementary (Florissant, Mo.)
  • Sanders Elementary School (Austell, Ga.)
  • Solar Prep for Boys (Dallas, Texas)
  • Urbana High School (Urbana, Ill.)

We Can Do This is a nationwide campaign to increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and reinforce basic prevention measures. It is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services and facilitated by the Fors Marsh Group. Learn more at WeCanDoThis.HHS.gov.

Documentary: Learn About Healthy Habit Resources to Help Schools & Families

Lysol and National PTA help support parents and teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic

Reckitt, the maker of Lysol, believes it is important to keep your loved ones illness-free and is dedicated to providing resources to help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs. In partnership with National PTA, Lysol has collaborated to recognize the resilience parents and teachers have shown over the past two years and bring the following resources to schools and families:  

  • HERE for Healthy Schools
    Through education, research funding and strategic partnerships, the Lysol HERE for Healthy Schools program aims to minimize the spread of illness-causing germs in the classroom.
  • Welcome Back Packs
    Lysol partnered with the CDC Foundation to create Welcome Back Packs to help support the reopening of schools through informative posters, fun activities and engaging lesson plans that encourage healthy habits. Thanks to the National PTA network, we have been able to share these resources with members across the country!
  • Germ-Cast
    The Lysol Germ-Cast app monitors illness in your communities and provides reliable information and tips to help keep you and your loved ones protected from illness-causing germs. 

Lysol is proud to share the above documentary for you to learn more about their role in helping to prevent the spread of illness-causing germs during the COVID-19 pandemic and their dedication to  the safe reopening of schools. 

In 2022, please encourage your school leaders to continue prioritizing healthy habits in and out of the classroom and utilize the resources offered by National PTA and Lysol to help protect your loved ones. For more information, visit Lysol.com/HERE and sign up for the Lysol Teachers newsletter

Meet the 2023-2024 Reflections Theme Search Contest Winner!

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students across the country and in U.S. schools abroad participate in the Reflections program, creating artwork in response to an annual theme. Through Reflections, PTA provides students with an opportunity to grow their confidence and a platform to raise their voice on social issues. As part of that effort, we are proud to say that since the program’s launch over 50 years ago, the annual Reflections theme has always been developed by a student through the National PTA Annual Theme Search Contest.  

During the Theme Search Contest, students from across the country submit unique theme suggestions to their state PTAs, who then select up to five finalist themes and send them to National PTA. Once the submissions reach National PTA, volunteer leaders conduct multiple stages of review. These reviewers narrow the wide field of creative entries to just one by searching for a theme that is original, inspiring, focused and widely applicable. It is not an easy task!  

In fall 2021, we began a nationwide search for the theme for the 2023-2024 program year. Over the course of the Theme Search Contest, National PTA received over 75 entries from 18 different state PTAs. From these state-winning, student-selected theme submissions, we are excited to announce that the winner is …  

Alice Meko with her submission, I Am Hopeful Because…!  

With her winning submission, Alice joins the ranks of select students who have shaped the Reflections program over the years by determining the theme that guides an entire program cycle. Alice is a fourth-grader from Hampton Cove Elementary School PTA in Alabama. Her winning theme suggestion has earned her $100 and will inspire thousands of students across the nation during the 2023-2024 Reflections program. 

Alabama PTA surprised Alice with the news during an awards ceremony at her school. The event included Paula Lyman, Alabama PTA VP Programs and ALPTA Reflections Co-chair; Liz Boykin, Alabama PTA, Reflections Co-chair; Beth Wilder, Huntsville City Schools Board of Education, District 2; Christie Finley, Superintendent, Huntsville City Schools; Elizabeth Fleming, Director of Public Development, Huntsville City Schools; Dr. Lakeeta Perkins, Hampton Cove Elementary, Principal; and Sonia Parker, Hampton Cove Elementary, GATE teacher. Everyone was so excited to come together and recognize Alice’s accomplishment!  

During the program, Alice took a moment to share her inspiration for her winning theme. She explained, “Through these rough times, everybody needs a little hope around here.” 

Reviewers for the 2023-2024 Theme Search Contest also noted that I Am Hopeful Because… is relatable to many. One reviewer shared that hope is “something needed more than ever.” And while it is highly applicable now, hope springs eternal; the theme will likely remain inspiring to students for years to come. 

Currently, Reflections participants are creating artwork in response to the 2021-2022 program year’s theme, I Will Change the World By…, which was submitted by Lydia Keel from Spanish Fork Junior High School PTSA in Utah during the 2021-2022 Theme Search Contest. We are so excited to share how student artists across the country and in U.S. schools abroad have chosen to express how they will change the world. The 200+ national student winners from this year will be announced May 1, so mark your calendars! 

The 2022-2023 Reflections program theme—Show Your Voice!—will launch in April. We thank Jason Yevin, from Salk/Macarthur PTSA in New York for submitting that theme idea during the 2022-2023 Theme Search Contest. You can learn more about the events that inspired his idea in this blog post. Stay tuned for the launch at PTA.org/Reflections and then look for more information from your participating state PTA. 

We encourage all Reflections supporters to help shape the future of the Reflections program by participating in the annual Theme Search Contest. One theme submission could inspire the nation! Visit your state PTA’s Reflections Program page to learn more.  


Sarah Scalet is the 2020-2022 National PTA Arts in Education Fellow. 

Give Smart, Leave a Legacy and Make a Lasting Impact

Give Smart, Leave a Legacy and Make a Lasting Impact 

The last few years have been anything but normal. The pandemic has hit the economy hard and the ripple effects have impacted everything from how we buy cars to who is making our coffee. You aren’t alone if you are keeping a closer eye on your finances.  

In the same way, PTAs across the country are also struggling with strained budgets, while at the same time, desperately trying to provide essential tools and services (like food, Wi-Fi access and mental health services) to their communities.  

If you are reading this, you are probably already supporting PTA with your time, talent and donations.  

Have you considered a gift to National PTA in your will or estate plans to cement your legacy of support for kids and families?  

Leaving a gift in your will allows you to make a significant gift to the mission and work of National PTA, while retaining control of your assets during your lifetime. That’s the advantage of a bequest—you can provide for your family today and still invest in PTA’s work to protect and support every child for tomorrow. 

Did you know you can make a bequest in your will with as little as the addition of one sentence? You can designate the National PTA as the beneficiary of a specific amount or asset, or you can allocate a percentage of your total estate. 

When you include the National PTA in your will, you become a valued member of National PTA’s legacy recognition program, The Oak Tree Circle. We recognize the significance of every bequest and appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude by saying thank you today. 


If you would like to learn more, or if you have already included National PTA in your will, please email Caroline Condon at bequests@PTA.org  

National PTA Continues Celebration of “I Matter Because…” Reflections Artists

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students across the country and in U.S. schools abroad participate in the National PTA Reflections program. By creating opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, Reflections boosts student confidence and success, both in the arts and in life.   

In response to an annual student-selected theme, students can submit artwork in the categories of Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. The program also offers the Special Artist Division, which recognizes students with disabilities who participate.  

As a tiered arts recognition program, student submissions can earn awards and prizes at the local, county, district, region levels. Winners from these levels then move on to the state PTA level. Finally, winning artworks from the state level proceed to the national level, where students can receive the Award of Merit, Award of Excellence, or the highest honor—the Outstanding Interpretation Award—for their artistic achievements.  

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, National PTA will host a Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase to continue to celebrate the over 200 national-level awardees from the 2020-2021 I Matter Because… program. As students and their creative talents are essential to the Reflections program, the event will feature more artwork and more students than ever before, with 22 student highlights! We are so excited to recognize all of our winners again and share the creative accomplishments of our featured artists with you.  

Top left – Anna Xie, Award of Merit in Visual Arts, Georgia
Top middle – Alea Garner, Award of Merit in Dance Choreography as a Special Artist, Utah
Top right – MaeLee Scoville, Award of Merit in Literature, Utah
Bottom left – Minjae Eum, Award of Excellence in Music Composition, Alabama
Bottom middle – Josh Devaney, Award of Excellence in Film Production, New Jersey
Bottom right – Trisha Shrestha, Award of Excellence in Dance Choreography, Washington

For a sense of the fun to come, we would like to introduce you to a selection of the featured students.  

Campbell Brown is a dancer from Russom Elementary PTA in Georgia. She won the Award of Merit for her Dance Choreography piece, “Shine Bright.” Dancing brings Campbell joy, and she likes to spread that positivity with others. In her own words, she explains, “I know that I matter because when I bring joy and happiness to others through my performance it makes the world a better place.”  

Tanishka Gupta won the Award of Merit for her poem, “I Matter to Me.” From Round Rock Senior High PTA in Texas, Tanishka shared that writing helps her express her ideas about sensitive subjects and “paint a picture with words.” The inspiration for her award-winning poem draws from the key points of individuality, self-worth, and uniqueness. Tanishka notes, “my true worth always has and always will lie inside me.”  

This year’s Reflections Student Arts Showcase will also highlight Boston Flake from Hobble Creek Elementary PTA in Utah, who won the Award of Merit for his music composition piece, “Bit Life.” (He also won an Award of Excellence during the I Matter Because… program for his literature piece, “I Can Do Anything!”) Boston, a blind DJ and music composer, has produced music for many years and performs in front of big crowds. He shared, “That is one way to show that I matter, by lifting others with my talents.” 

Want to hear from more talented student artists? Join the Reflections community and celebrate students’ creativity during the 2022 Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase at 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday, Jan. 25! The event will air on National PTA’s YouTube channelRSVP in advance to receive free Reflections-inspired activities, including an interactive game to play along with us during the event.  

If you can’t wait until Jan. 25 to view artwork from inspiring student artists, visit this virtual collection, which features the 200+ national Reflections winners from the 2020-2021 I Matter Because… Reflections program. Take a moment to view these students’ remarkable creative achievements and feel free to leave a comment or two!  

We also invite you to learn more about the top seven I Matter Because… Outstanding Interpretation awardees by reading a recent blog post and watching the award video. Congratulations once again to the recipients of the Outstanding Interpretation award: Claire Moon, Johan Novak, Joshua Johnson, Maeryn Elizabeth Jacob, Mark Wagner, Sydney Ware and Zoe Caraballo. 

For more information about the Reflections program, please visit PTA.org/Reflections.  


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA Arts in Education Fellow. 

Rock Your Kickoff: How the Right Start Gets the Best Fundraising Results

Authored by Mariah Muller 

A new calendar year means new needs for your PTA and school to meet to give every child a high-quality education. But what’s the key to getting students, volunteers and teachers excited and engaged for your next fundraising campaign? A motivational fundraiser kickoff event! Here are some tips on how to plan and execute the best one possible. 

What is a Fundraiser Kickoff, and Why Do You Need One? 

Every good fundraiser starts with a kickoff event. Your fundraiser kickoff is how you communicate the purpose and details of the fundraiser in an approachable, organized way. More importantly, your event is an easy and fun way to generate excitement from participants, including students, volunteers, teachers, parents, community members, and anyone else whose support you need to get the most out of your fundraising campaign. 

So, the first tip to making your fundraiser kickoff the best it can be is holding your kickoff event right at the start of your fundraising campaign. When planning your fundraiser, put just as much thought and preparation into the kickoff as the rest of the campaign. 

The Basic Components of a Fundraiser Kickoff 

Since there are so many different types of school fundraisers—from selling spirit wear to hosting a fun run or dance event—there are just as many different ways to approach your fundraiser kickoff. It all depends on the type of campaign you are running! However, your kickoff event should include at least the basic elements listed below. 

  • Purpose: One of the best ways to get people excited about participating in your school fundraiser is to tell them exactly why you’re raising money. Don’t be afraid to share specifics! Donors love to know how their money will help the school, and volunteers and participants love to know that their hard work is going to a good cause. Use your kickoff event to clearly communicate the purpose of your fundraiser. 
  • Details: After explaining the campaign’s purpose, it’s time to share details about how the fundraiser will work, including important deadlines, event dates/times and locations, and any other information volunteers and participants need to know. 
  • Materials and Literature: As you plan your kickoff event, ask yourself—are there are there any flyers, newsletters or other materials that students and volunteers will need in order to participate in the fundraiser? Consider how will you share those materials—will there be a letter or email sent out to parents with more information? It’s critical to have a plan for disseminating important literature or communicating what will be sent out after the event. 
  • Prizes or incentives: Some fundraisers—such as sales, fun runs and auctions—incorporate prizes or incentives to promote participation. Your fundraiser kickoff event is the perfect time to show off these incentives to get people even more excited.  

Conveying Your Message: Innovative Ways to Host a Fundraiser Kickoff 

  • Host a In Person Event 
    One of the most popular fundraiser kickoff events is a school assembly. Kickoff events work best when there is a large audience all gathered together, so the attendees can feed off each other’s excited energy. With an assembly, you can get the whole school community involved, featuring speeches from school administration and performances by student groups such as the school band or cheer team. All of this helps people feel like part of a big fundraising community. 
  • Host a Virtual Event 
    Of course, assemblies may not be possible or safe these days. If that’s the case at your school, don’t worry—you can still get people just as excited through a virtual event. To mimic the feel of an assembly as closely as possible, line up exciting speakers and entertainment just as you would for an in-person event.

    Use accessible technology and make sure all participants have access to the links and passwords they’ll need to log into the event ahead of time. Don’t forget to have a practice run to make sure all of the technology works as intended. There are a lot of details to consider when hosting a virtual event, but with enough planning, it can be exciting and fun for everyone. 

Other Key Considerations for Your Fundraiser Kickoff 

  • Create a Kickoff Video 
    Whether you’re hosting an in-person event or a virtual event, you should create a kickoff video to play for attendees. Include the basic components listed earlier in this blog in your video, such as the purpose and type of fundraiser, date and location of the event, and how volunteers or donors can participate. 
     
    This is your chance to show off your school’s personality and create an entertaining but informative experience for your audience. You can then post the kickoff video on your fundraising website, school website, social media platforms and more. It’s an investment that goes a long way!
  • Make the Most of Social Media 
    Social media is a crucial promotional tool for any fundraiser. To make the most of your kickoff event, take photos and videos of the event and post them on social media with a custom hashtag, and include links to your fundraising or donation page. Ask kickoff attendees to also post about the fundraiser on their own social media accounts. Soon enough, word-of-mouth about your fundraiser will spread like wildfire. 
  • Have a theme 
    Want to add some extra personality to your fundraiser kickoff? Consider having a theme for your fundraiser and introducing it during the kickoff event. Boosterthon’s Character Program is one way to dress up your fundraiser with a fun, memorable theme that promotes good values for the people who benefit most from fundraising … your students! 

Learn more about how Boosterthon can help make your fundraiser dreams a reality, from kickoff to collection, at Boosterthon.com. 

How Your PTA Can Support Social and Emotional Learning 

We know social and emotional learning (SEL) happens at home and at school, but how do we bridge the two learning environments? That’s where your PTA comes in! 

National PTA has introduced our Healthy Minds program to help families and schools work together to support kids’ mental health and well-being. SEL is a key component of our approach to healthy minds! Throughout the pandemic, PTAs across the nation doubled down on their commitment to SEL in big and small ways. 

For example, to combat feelings of isolation and stress in their communities, many PTAs distributed mental wellness kits. These bags of resources provided a range of materials including everything from stress balls and fidgets for children to use to aromatherapy candles.  

Several PTAs also collaborated with school counselors to support their communities. In Georgia, Bartlett Middle School PTSA implemented a new “Coffee with the Counselors” event series, during which counselors would choose a hot topic and facilitate a discussion for families and students. Families were able to get professional advice on relevant issues and access a safe space to practice having these important discussions with their children. 

Meanwhile, in Utah, Bonneville Elementary PTA used a National PTA COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant to collaborate with school leadership to create a wellness center for students. They transformed an unused classroom into an inviting, therapeutic space distinct from the academic setting. A partition separates the Wellness Center into two main areas:  

  • In the Wellness Room, students can take a break during the school day when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. It is a place to process and connect.  
  • In the Resource Room, parents can find materials to help them manage mental health at home and in the community.  

You can learn more about Bonneville’s innovative approach in our Mental Health/Social-Emotional Support COVID-19 Relief Case Study

If you’re feeling inspired by these SEL success stories, here are some tips for getting started in your own community! 

Educate families about social and emotional learning, and why it matters! For families to reinforce social and emotional learning at home, they need to first understand what SEL is and how their children can benefit from it. There are so many ways PTAs can promote learning in their community, from sharing relevant informational and family activity handouts and podcast episodes, to hosting a book club or an event night. 

Help families and teachers develop a common vocabulary when talking about SEL. Discover what language your school uses when talking about social and emotional learning and life skills. Perhaps they use the CASEL wheel, the Second Step Program, or their own homegrown approach with school-selected core values. Either way, it’s important that all community members are on the same page! You can learn more about key SEL skill areas at PTA.org/SocialEmotional.  

Host activities and events that will help students (and their families) build social and emotional skills. You can incorporate SEL activities into your already existing events like your Fall Festival or even as a welcome before a movie night or pizza party. Feelings Charades is a great example for younger kids that can be adapted to fill just a little bit of time, or a longer window!  

Looking for a fun way to get tweens and teens to grapple with bigger SEL topics like identity, purpose, and decision-making? Hosting an event night where middle and high schoolers write Letters to their Future Selves is a fun way to prompt meaningful reflection. 

For even more ideas and resources, visit PTA.org/SocialEmotional  

Family Literacy for All

National PTA’s Family Reading Experience recently turned five years old, so we decided it was time for a refresh. Over the past year, National PTA has worked with literary content experts to help us re-design programming to be more accessible to the everyday parent and PTA leader by engaging the whole family in reading activities. With our funding from Office Depot, National PTA was able to pilot these new resources last spring with select PTAs across the country.

Sandra West, President of Miami Dade Council PTA in Florida, led the pilot work for her PTA and shared her thoughts about the experience with us.

How did Miami Dade Council PTA go about planning literacy programming?

Miami was, and is, still deep in the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding in-person events wasn’t an option. We started putting our collective heads together to seek authors willing to read their books on Zoom. The council would purchase the books and then mail them to participants. The United States Postal Service offers special media rate service that is affordable. Each book typically costs less than $3 to ship.

We were quite delighted to find that among our board members we had two authors and they knew many more authors. We began contacting them to schedule readings and arrange the purchase of the books.

Danielle Joseph read her book I Want To Ride The Tap Tap, which you can watch on YouTube. After the success of our first reading, the council was contacted by Coral Gables Family Literacy Festival organizers to participate in their Memorial Day Weekend Festival. The goal of the Festival was for every child to leave with a book, and we fulfilled their goal by giving away over 200 books. The only requirement to receive a book was for them to join our newsletter mailing list. Using that list, we promoted our second Zoom author, Andrew Toffoli, who read Susan Bear Anthony, which you can also watch on YouTube.

Another project of the Family Literacy Committee was a partnership with the Miami Dade County Public Library System to host authors and give away the corresponding books. Every three weeks or so, a different branch of the library hosts an author read and the council provides the books to be distributed.

Did you face any challenges in your literacy work?

One of our challenges has been negotiating discounted books. To find discounts we contact the author, the publishers, distributors and bookstores. A resource that has been amazing has been Scholastic. At first, we purchased discounted books through the Scholastic Book Club but then we were introduced to the Scholastic F.A.C.E. program, which allows us to purchase deeply discounted books with the promise that we will give them away and not sell them.

The initial pilot funds provided by Office Depot have been matched three-fold by the council, so this can be a continuous program offered to the 350,000 students in the fourth-largest school system in the USA. Thank you so much to National PTA and Office Depot for getting us started!

If Sandra’s family reading experience program excites you, make sure to check out our revamped Family Reading Experience page with our new PTA Leader Resources on how to plan your own literacy programming in your PTA! Happy reading!


 Sandra West is the president of Miami Dade County Council PTA.