For a number of years now my school has been holding Partners in Print evenings for families. These evenings are designed to help parents learn and practice ways to help their child grow as a reader and writer. Since moving to first grade from the upper grades I've helped present several of these evenings.
Last week we presented the first one for this year. For the first time we completely ditched the script (we've seriously modified scripts in the past). We decided to focus on storytelling because that is an important focus in our classrooms at the beginning of the year.
After giving some basic reasoning for our plan to help parents understand why we were doing what we did, one presenter told a personal family story. Then parents told their children their family stories; stories from their childhood, from the child's younger years, or even from other family members. It was amazingly fun to watch families talking and laughing together.
After telling stories we modeled writing the story in a book. Then we provided paper, pencils, crayons, and colored pencils. We weren't concerned about who did the writing and/or illustrating in the family, just that they were doing so together.
Our hope is that families will continue telling stories after this evening, every chance they get. Oral storytelling is an easy thing for families to do together and helps build an understanding of story structure. Children who haven't been read to regularly often don't have a foundation for stories. Telling family stories is a way all families can support this goal, regardless of whether there are books in the home and whether parents are literate in English or other languages. We all have stories to tell. I'm so glad I had this opportunity to hear some from our families.