Reimagining Family Engagement

By Mary Westervelt, director of marketing & communications

“I didn’t realize how many resources we have to share!” 

“I forgot how easy it is to help little kids learn.”

“Now I see how big family engagement can be.”

4 months ago, everything changed. Schools came to a close and what we used to call “normal” became The Before Times. For many of us, it feels big and scary and almost impossible to try to support families when all of our systems have been upended.

But we at Ready4K have borne witness to a beautiful rising, as educators and families use the simple tools we’ve laid out to reimagine learning and engagement. We’ve been inspired by these examples of empowerment. We know you will be, too.

Sharing Resources

Last March, just as the world was closing up shop, we launched our Trauma-Informed program. Because it’s aligned to the protective factors framework, we included a comprehensive system for sharing concrete community resources.

In the past, our partners had bulletin boards, would distribute flyers, and used other in-person strategies to share these resources. And when we said, “Can you tell us what resources you want to share?” many weren’t sure what to give us.

But with traditional in-person resource sharing off the table, a new approach was needed. As partners began to go through our intake process, many folks started to get really excited as they realized how expansive their resources really are. As they thought about what they really CAN do for families – even now! Especially now!

Partners started sharing links to the 2020 Census, local cultural events happening on Zoom, 211, food assistance programs, and mental health support services. Given the space and opportunity to reflect on what families really need, they’ve been able to do MORE, and be MORE proactive in sharing, than they had been before.

“You’ve Got This!”

At the same time, we were acutely aware of how overwhelmed parents were feeling. The pressure to rise to the occasion of teaching your child – a job typically done by college-trained professionals – is a lot for anyone to bear.

We opened the doors for organizations to provide Ready4K to their families for free for the rest of the school year. We quickly began supporting thousands of new families across the country who found themselves in uncharted waters. 

And parents reached back to us. They shared stories of how highlighting everyday teachable moments made them realize that they have what it takes to help their children grow and thrive.

“It’s easy to forget how simple learning can be for the little ones, and this is a reminder of that.”

“With a hectic life/schedule, sometimes it’s easy to forget how any activity can become a learning experience.”

“The texts remind parents of all the tiny things that you can do to bond with the kids.”

“The tips let me value the time with my baby.”

Family Engagement is Bigger Than I Thought

While families have been embracing their ability to give their children what they need, we’ve also witnessed education leaders having growth epiphanies. Administrators are realizing that they can expand their family engagement programming beyond the traditional, narrow definitions.

When COVID-19 hit, family engagement could no longer consist of in-person evening workshops and community events. Yet, practitioners felt the need to support their families more than ever before. They were caught between a sense of urgency to reach out to families and the feeling that their toolkit to do so had just disappeared.

My idea of what family engagement means has gotten bigger.

Iris Estrada, Corpus Christi ISD

A new partner who joined as a part of our COVID-19 response program recently shared how she has expanded her view of what family engagement can be. 

“Until we started using Ready4K, I thought of family engagement as a face-to-face activity,” Iris Estrada of Corpus Christi ISD recently told us. “But now I have a broader view of what we can do. It can be a struggle to get parents into school. Now that I’ve seen it in action, my idea of what family engagement means has gotten bigger.”

Reimagine Learning

In the world of education, we’re always trying to make more out of the limited resources we have. But what we’ve witnessed is more than everyone “making do” – it’s embracing the strengths we have. It’s reimagining the possible.

You, the education community, are recognizing the resources around you and making sure families can access them. You, the parents, are realizing the learning in everyday teachable moments. You, the education leaders, are expanding your definition of family engagement in empowering and exciting new ways.
We at Ready4K want to help you on this journey, which is why we’ve put together a new funding option for our innovative family engagement programs. And in honor of the creative energy from you – our community – we’ve named it the Reimagine Learning Grant.

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