Updated: Sep 21
by Sarah Sansbury
The K-12 school does not exist inside a bubble. Our students come from homes and have lives of their own—and, after the dismissal bell rings, students everyday go back to those homes and lives. Community engagement is more than just a “that-would-be-a-nice-thing-to-do.” It is an “opportunity-not-to-be-missed.”
Librarians engaging their students’ families and the larger school community can have a stronger positive influence on their students. And, bonus—This engagement is also a great way to advocate and promote the library programming and overall mission.
Here are just a few ways to connect and engage with your families and community:
Partnering with the public library—For example, invite your public library to set up a card sign-up booth at school events like Open House, school registration, etc. Read this Knowledge Quest blog post for more ideas.
Food for Fines—This is a great amnesty program in which every can or pantry item donated equals a $1 off of fines. The positive PR earned is priceless. For example, students, who may have avoided checking out books because of having overdue fines or lost books, may reconsider revisiting the library because the negative stigma of paying for fines is lifted. Paying your fine--or rather donating food--is an act of generosity and community service. You could even personalize this program to partner with a club or organization in your community to give back to.
Parent University—Host workshops or webinars on how to keep your child safe online, how to access electronic resources that can help your child when working on homework or a project.
Photo booth during Open House
Read below about how using a photo booth at Open House can help promote your library programming and allows families to commemorate their time at Open House--making going to school something special and shared with family members and their student:
“We offer free green screen photos to families at our Open House as a way to draw our families into the library. I take their picture, and then a flyer with our library’s programming, website, and social media information, and tell them to check social media the next day to see their finalized green screen pictures. It’s a great way to get our families to follow us on social media and we usually gain several hundred followers on Facebook and Instagram after this event.” Amanda Jones, Louisiana librarian at Live Oak Middle
Literacy Nights or STEM/STEAM Nights
Read below about how Literacy or STEM/STEAM nights enrich our students’ learning and fosters positive experiences with families and the school.
“We kicked off ‘One school, One Book’ on curriculum night with Lemonade War. Our principal reached out to the author, who sent us a video which we played for parents/guardians. To help families at home, since the book is to be read at home, we put together a webpage with resources. We are also having special guests record themselves reading the chapters and sharing via Class DOJO. We are also going to have a STEAM day for the kids that is centered around the book as well.” Rocky Silverburg, Georgia librarian at Kingsley Elementary
Want more advice and resources? Be sure to check out the Global Family Research Project website and Family Engagement Playbook.