Parents Reaching Out Grants

Lincoln Alexander Public School – Ajax

Durham District School Board
Supporting Diverse Communities

Parents Reaching Out grants help parents to identify barriers to parent engagement in their own community, and find local solutions to get more parents involved. Parents who are involved in their children's education help to support their children's achievement and well-being.

This video is part of a series that features successful parent engagement projects funded through the Ministry of Education's Parents Reaching Out (PRO) grants.

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Anne Sidnell [Education Officer ESL/ELD]:

Our project is called Supporting Diverse Communities. We developed welcome folders that were translated into nine languages. We also created a guide to multilingual literacy events and that's a guide to help schools set up their events to include dual language resources and multilingual books in order to engage parents who have a language other than English and also help students who have a home language other than English become better involved in their school.

Komathy Muralitharan [Parent and Volunteer]:

I help with the school for four years; I share my language and my culture with many students.

Anne Sidnell [Education Officer ESL/ELD]:

So this particular project, we developed the guide during that 2007/2008 year and it's been used in many different schools across the board and it is an ongoing program. And then we have on-going literacy events in schools where parents come and read in their first language, students who engage using dual language books and read to each other in their home languages and that's really important. And then there is another part of the project that was to develop welcome folders that were in several languages that are common in Durham Region and so those welcome folders were designed for parents of kindergarten students, parents of general elementary students and also secondary students as well.

And it gives them information about the school, how school works in Ontario because this is something with which some parents that are newcomer parents are unfamiliar. So we give them that kind of background information. And then also provide some with resources about information in the community. So some of the community settlement services that are available for them as well. And so those welcome folders have been very successful and they are used in schools when newcomer families arrive and we have also available our nine most common languages other than English.

It's really important because this is how we value the first language of our families, is how we have to build community, is how we help to engage parents who are newcomer parents in our schools. And because it provides a service that newcomer parents need, they are not necessarily familiar with how Ontario schools work, they have a language other than English, we want to make sure they know that we value the home language, that we know that literacy in the home language is extremely important and that we want to encourage that and to help them to maintain and support that home language with their children as well.

We've had, we've had excellent response from parents and from schools as well. We've had many schools who at the beginning were just starting to develop those multilingual events in their buildings and now we have many more schools and boards that are doing that and as we've mentioned before they are purchasing the books that are in their languages of their, of their families and their community and that's a really important thing for them. So it's certainly spreading across our board and that's a very important thing for us because the demographics of the region are changing quite considerably and we are seeing many many students that are coming to school who have languages other than English and want to value that, that first language and the literacy in the first language.

Also it's been a real community builder for us, we have many communities agencies have come to us and asked us to include those materials in our welcome folders because that helps everybody in the community to support those families.

One of the things that the program did was it allowed boards to identify areas that they felt were important and that's a great service to us because we can identify areas in our board that are in places that we can really work on parent engagement and that matters. And these are the kind of projects where once they get started and established in a board, they start to take off and they start to become part of the way we work and the way we do business each day. And so funding from the PRO Grant enabled us to translate for instance many of our resources into those nine languages and now that's become part of what we do. So some of the important goals that we've managed to achieve in this particular program are; just really increasing the welcoming opportunities that we have for newcomer families, so when you can provide information in their first language, that's a really important way of welcoming families and making them feel comfortable with the school system, so that has been a real benefit.

We've also had the opportunity to work for schools to make sure that first languages are valued and that we share that information with parents and we encourage parents to come in and use their first and home languages in the school that has been a real benefit as well. And we are really looking to engage newcomer families and make them feel comfortable in a school system that might be quite different from the one - from their home country. So it's been a real – there have been many many benefits, coming projects.

To learn more visit: www.ontario.ca/EDUparents