Turning the Page believes that families play a vital role in their children’s education. Engaged parents are powerful partners to schools and communities as they both support their child to excel academically and advocate for access to quality resources for the full school community. Our efforts to support family engagement in D.C.’s Ward 8 and Chicago’s North Lawndale connect parents to home learning resources and activities, create a space for parents to build relationships with other parents and teachers, and build a bridge to further leadership and advocacy opportunities that improve schools and communities. The following stories of home learning, community service, social capital, and advocacy highlight real success stories from families in TTP programming.
Families gain books, tools, and educational resources during TTP programming that supports their children’s development at home. Ms. Gladys Ferman, a parent at D.C.’s Raymond Education Campus commented that she has to read her son If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, a book used in workshops, “every night faithfully at nighttime before he goes to sleep. That is his book. It’s all ripped, torn and everything now. But he loves that book.” A family of four gains as many as 40 books through attendance at TTP programming during the course of the school year plus additional books and resources during summer museum trips. In addition to building home libraries, parents gain strategies for supporting their children’s literacy development. For example, a Garfield Elementary School parent noted that, because of her attendance at Community Nights, she has improved her reading at home with her children. “The way we read the book, from the emphasis and all of these nice things that we do now that I didn’t do before…It’s more engaging for all of us.”
Serving the Community
In honor of Martin Luther King Day of Service in 2011, Ms. Keena Bass, Ms. Donna Stewart, and Ms. Jaime Mayo, three parent leaders from Ward 8 partner schools, coordinated a donation drive at each of their schools to create care packages for senior citizens. Families from the three schools assembled the care packages and made personalized cards for the seniors. On MLK Day, the group presented the packages to seniors at Knox Hill Residence in Ward 8, and spent the day reading to and playing games with seniors. Though many families in Ward 8 may not have the economic resources of other areas of Washington, D.C., they are motivated to serve their community members. An AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer for Turning the Page said of the group, “It is great to see parents from across several schools collaborate on projects and support each other. Their continuous commitment to their families, schools, and community and hard work in the face of adversity is a daily inspiration.” Visits to Knox Hill Residence have become a biannual tradition for TTP families as they continue to share the MLK Day of Service with seniors and create homemade books together that celebrate the history of the Ward 8 community.
Increasing Social Capital
Community building is an integral part of TTP programs, which give parents opportunities to meet, learn from, and find support in one another. Ms. Brenda Ludd, a grandparent at Martin Luther King Elementary School explained, “Even if we don’t see each other outside of school, when we see each other again in school, we remember. We’re like ‘Hey, you were at the meeting the other day! I was your partner!’ […] We love each other and we shared that experience. And that’s something new I’ve never had before…a blessing, to have that kind of relationship with parents.” By building an extended parent-to-parent base at TTP programming, families at our partner schools gain confidence in their ability to support the academic development of their children and the school community. Parents expand their network further by building positive relationships with their children’s teachers and school leaders as they connect during Community Night workshops and set goals for their students. These opportunities for school communication breakdown the isolation that many parents feel without connection to peers and educators in their children’s school community.
Advocating for School Improvement
TTP parent leaders push forward necessary school renovations, funding allocations, and enriching resources in their school communities. TTP recognizes the power of parent voices to speak on behalf of their children and provides training opportunities and support for families to gain the resources and tools to testify before City Council hearings, lead parent leadership efforts, and engage with allies in the community at large.
Community Nights at Patterson Elementary School are the forum for parent leaders to expand the ranks of the Parent Teacher Association. “I wouldn’t be part of the PTA if it wasn’t for the Turning the Page event,” stated a parent leader from Patterson. “Being able to commune with other people who were going through the same issues I was going through” was an integral part of her engagement with the leadership efforts at the school.