The parents who show up for Back-To- School Night and Parent Conferences are the ones who tend to be most directly involved in their children’s learning. They are the ones who will fight for what their kids need. Too many librarians spend these events alone in the library catching up on work. You want them to recognize your contribution to student success in school and for their futures in college and beyond. Once you do, they will do everything in their power to ensure your program thrives. Don’t miss out on reaching your prime audience.
To bring them in, have a sign or signs where parents check in and/or post them on the walls. At the elementary level they may have little free time to wander so have a table set up at the main school entry with information for them. Check with your principal to see if you can be there instead of in your library. This gives you a chance to meet and greet them.
In preparing material, consider what parents want most from the school library. At the lower levels they want their children to learn to love reading. So have a hand-out with the heading “A Book for Every Child—Every Child a Reader.” Highlight any reading programs originating from the library. Have a brief annotated bibliography and give links to your website where they can find more suggested titles. If you can’t do that, list the URL for ALSCs Notable Books.
Are you looking for volunteers? Have a sign-up sheet, but just don’t have lines for their names and contact information. What will parents get as a result of volunteering? Seeing their child while they work in the library? Learning more about the library program? Access to borrowing material they can use at home with their children? Helping the library be a welcoming environment for all students? Put that first–then the lines for signing up.
At upper levels where parents move from class to class to meet teachers, they may have more room in the schedule to actually drop by the library. Again in preparing, think about what they want for their children. This the time when they begin worrying about college, so spotlight how the library program prepares students.
A flyer or a running program entitled “What Students Don’t Know about Research” lets you showcase the information literacy skills you incorporate into students’ learning experiences. Link to articles on the topic, such as this one from Huffington Post and point out why students in your school don’t need to wait until college to learn the skills. Have your computers open to the databases you available and have a hand-out with the passwords for accessing them at home. (Your students should have it, but the parents are probably unaware of it.)
At all grade levels, have your Mission Statement prominently displayed and include it on all handouts—and the Volunteer Sign-up Sheet. Let parents know they can always contact you via school email. If you have them, inform parents about LibGuides you created just for them and how they can see projects their children have done on your website.
The more parents learn about the value of today’s school library program, the more they will fight to keep it. Don’t let your best potential advocates walk out the door without discovering what you do for their kids.