Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Involving Parents in Home Reading

Several years ago, I found a wonderful post on Jessica Meacham's site about bags students could take home with books and other materials for sharing with families. I teach in a high-poverty area, and many of my students do not have books at home to share with their parents, siblings, and other relatives. Each kiddo takes home a book every night, but I wanted something a little extra that was a) motivating and that b) put a lot of books in my students' hands. This was the beginning of our literature bag program.

Since each pack includes many books (sometimes as many as seven or eight), my students have to get a parent's permission to check them out. In the four years I've used these, I've only had one pouch and one book lost! You can grab my permission slip (in English and Spanish) HERE.

After a couple months of school, I introduce my students to literature bags, which I display in an awesome book organizer I got through a DonorsChoose.org grant from Lakeshore.

Each one of my literature bags is in a School-to-Home Organizer from Lakeshore. (Again, I got these through a grant... Love DonorsChoose!)

I created cards to go into each School-to-Home Organizer, and numbered the pouches. Some of my bags have books that are in Spanish, and I've noted that with star stickers so my students know which ones have bilingual texts in them.

The pouch has two sides... One contains the books (which you can see when the organizer is closed), and the other contains the contents card and a thin composition book.

The contents card has a brief note to parents with a list of titles included in the pouch, so parents can check the contents before returning it to school. There are also a couple of writing prompts and suggested activities (which are basically the same for each literature pack... I also have math packs with similar cards and other ideas). Parents and students can write in the composition book and/or draw a picture. I don't require this (or participation in the literature bag program as a whole), but almost all of my kids and their parents participate.

These are just a few of the books in the Ocean Life pack. You'll see each is labeled with the literature bag number as well as my name and school.

My students L-O-V-E these packs, parents always have positive feedback about them, and best of all, it gets families reading together. What's not to love about that?!


  1. Love it! I have wanted to do something like this, but where did you get all of the books? I have loads of classroom books, but they are not leveled. Are your bags leveled? (we have leveled readers, but we are not allowed to send them home.)

  2. Thanks for your questions! For the first set of bags I made, I combed through the existing bins in my classroom library to find books I had duplicates of and used pretty much just those. I also used bonus points from Scholastic to gather up books for other packs. Sometimes Scholastic had similar themed books in their book orders, so I just ordered those. Later on, I wrote DonorsChoose grants for certain theme packs (namely ones I couldn't find in Scholastic but wanted to expose my students to) and for the School-to-Home Organizers. There's also a local education foundation that does small grants (<$500) that I applied to for more titles.

    I don't have my bags leveled. I tried to include a variety of book levels in each bag (and often a blend of fiction and nonfiction) to appeal to a wide range of kids. Usually bags will have a book or two that kids can read on their own or with minimal help, as well as some "read to me" sort of books. I've entertained the thought of doing leveled bags, but haven't done so yet.

    I hope that's helpful. :)

  3. Your literature bags are a great idea!
    So happy to link up with a fellow first grade teacher!
    I am your newest follower.
    I would be honored to have you stop by and enter for a chance to win some more books during my giveaway this week!
    First Grade Critter Cafe

  4. Love those organizers. Lakeshore is my absolute favorite! I'm your newest follower, drop by. =)

    Just Wild About Teaching

  5. I love this idea! I also teach in a Title 1 School that is 98 percent poverty and a high spanish speaking population. I did a Donor's Choose grant and got 300 books to put in our classroom library. I am getting on Donor's choose ASAP to get the materials to do this project. Thanks for your ideas!


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