The Importance and Challenges of Parental Involvement for Young English Language Learners In terms of supporting and sustaining


In terms of supporting and sustaining successful and high achieving students, parents play a significant role. Parents provide guidance, role modeling, and make decisions about every aspect of their child's educational experience. In fact, there is an abundance of research and evidence that point towards the key role parents play in a child's success in school (NYIM, 2004). Research has found that regardless of family background, students who have parents that are active in their education are more likely to have; higher grades, better school attendance, good social skills, and go on to postsecondary education (Barton, 2006). While there is no one single definition of parental involvement, generally it is defined as, 'when parents actively, critically, resourcefully and responsibly contribute to promoting and developing the well being of their children (Family Strengthening Policy Center, 2004). In the case of young English Language Learners (ELLs), active parental involvement leads to higher achievement in reading, higher graduation rates, and a decrease in violent and anti-social behaviors (Henderson and Berla, 1994). Parents of ELLs also benefit when being involved in their child's education by gaining confidence in their ability as parents, a greater chance of continuing their own education, and developing positive ties to their community (Wherry, 2003).

Many parents of children who are English Language Learners (ELLs) face several challenges and barriers to becoming involved in their child's school or community. This can be due to several factors such as language, cultural expectations, isolation, personal or family trauma, and other social factors that can discourage or block one from becoming an active parent (Family Involvement and Community Resources, 2004). Language: Being unable to speak the language is a common challenge for parents of ELLs. This is made more difficult when documents or communication in one's native language is unavailable. When parents are unable to communicate with the school and its staff, it becomes nearly impossible for them to become involved in their child's education.

Cultural differences and expectations: Differences in cultural beliefs and expectations can be a barrier to parental involvement. In some cultures parents to do not play a role in the school, and communicating with the teacher is seen as a sign of disrespect, rather than engagement. In some cultures, parents trust the school and school administrators and never question what is being taught. Thereby, these cultural expectations and values may be perceived as exhibiting apathy and disinterest rather than the actual signs of respect and trust. Understanding these cultural differences is the key in being able to engage parents from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Explaining to parents the importance of their involvement in their child's education and providing guidance are integral in breaking down these cultural barriers. Isolation and an unwelcome school environment: Depending on the situation, oftentimes parents of ELLs can feel isolated from the school community. This is due to physical place of residence, lack of mobility, or work schedules that do not permit time to spend at school. It may also depend on the caretaker. For example, if the primary caretaker is a grandparent, health issues may create problems for attendance of school meetings and functions. If the child's school is unwelcoming to the parents, this creates another barrier for involvement. Schools that are culturally insensitive or lack the resources to provide documentation in other languages may be seen and unwelcoming and thereby will intimidate parents from involvement. While there are various ways that parents' can become involved in their child's education. Parents should check in with child on a regular basis instead of waiting for the yearly report card which leaves little or no time for intervention. Parent's should listen to their child talk about their day, which is a good way to be preventative and immediately address any red flags they perceive when their child discusses their day at school. Educating one's child is a partnership and parents should be able to communicate their expectations of their child to their child's teacher. Parents who are aware of events, services, and issues that occur at school are more able to advocate for the best interests of their children. Regardless of the type of environment of the school, parents should communicate any problems with school either through the teacher or the administration. Parents should also voice their concerns and provide feedback to school about events or information sessions being held for them (Family Involvement and Community Resources, 2004). Works Cited:

English Language Learner Knowledge Base (2004) Listening to families and faculties. Family Involvement and Community Resources

Barton, R. (Spring, 2006). Forging family ties. Northwest Education. Friedlander, M (1991). National Clearinghouse of Bilingual Education Parent involvement in education. (2004) Family Strengthening Policy Center

Henderson & Berla, (1994). Benefits of parent and family involvement. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.

Wherry, J. (2003) Tips parents can use to help children. The Parent Institute