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Jennifer Prior

Jennifer Prior

Jennifer Prior is an Associate Professor for Early Childhood and Literacy at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of numerous teacher resource publications for Shell Education, Teacher Created Materials, and the International Reading Association.

An Educator's Guide to Family Involvement in Early Literacy

Environmental Print in the Classroom: Meaningful Connections for Learning to Read

Family Involvement in Early Childhood Education: Research into Practice

Posted by on in Early Childhood

When I began teaching more than 25 years ago, my dream was to be an amazing teacher. I wanted to love, nurture, and provide a quality education for the little ones placed in my care. I was 21. Call me naïve, but I must admit that I never once thought about working with families. And so I encountered a great surprise when I began my first teaching job. Parents! They wanted to help out in the classroom. They wanted to know what I planned to teach their children. Privately, I thought, “Go away. Just let me handle the business of educating your children. I’ve got it under control.” But alas, this was not to happen, so I avoided encounters with families, except for brief interactions before and after school and at bi-annual conferences. What I found was that the more I avoided them, the more parents pursued me, and the more they scrutinized me. And, for heaven’s sake, they should. They were concerned, after all, with their children’s education. What a great thing . . . except that I was pretty much scared to death.


I eventually warmed up to the families of my students. I chit-chatted with them at school events and even attended some events outside of school that put me in contact with students and their families. Some of the interactions were great, while some of the encounters were uncomfortable and strained. What I realized, though, is that most parents just want information. They want to be kept in the loop about what their children are learning at school. Those of us who teach in early childhood classrooms need to remember that our students spent the first years of their lives in the home environment and have only recently encountered the “world of school.”


As the years passed, I began to see the need for more regular communication with families. I decided that every week, I was going to send home a newsletter, letting families know what I would be teaching in the week to come. What an amazing difference this made! Families felt comfortable knowing what was happening at school and approached me with specific questions and comments about the week’s activities. This one simple effort led to huge breakthroughs in communication with families.

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