Reading in Families: a new Read with Me project

The Reading in Families program is a new project planned by the Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature within the Read with Me framework. It aims to enrich families with reading and turn homes into literacy-rich environments; environments in which children are exposed to literacy through reading, learning phonemic and phonological awareness skills and related activities. Babies and toddlers learn literacy skills from early childhood until entering school while older children improve their reading skills and knowledge through reading to their younger siblings.

This project runs in deprived areas and targets families that cannot provide books to their children. Most of these parents are illiterate and are not aware of their role in their children’s education.

After the incredible success of the “Reading with Babies and Toddlers” program, Read with Me decide to run this program for all family members. In addition to reading, Read with Me experts insist on teaching literacy skills to families because most underserved families lack access to good education. This makes empowering parents and motivating them regarding their children’s education much more important.

 The history of this project goes back to 2010 when Read with Me started implementing the Reading with Babies and Toddlers program for underserved families in the marginal areas of Tehran and Isfahan. Areas home to Afghan immigrants who had come to Iran to work and home to Iranians who had migrated to these marginal regions due to their difficult living situations. After the success of its year-long pilot implementation, other associations and organizations joined this program, making it one of the backbones of the Read with Me program.

The Reading with Families program has been designed based on experiences gained from prior projects and information gained about the conditions of the target group. The participant families receive the necessary training based on their unique circumstances such as the literacy level of parents and number and age of children. Accordingly, they borrow the appropriate books for their children monthly. Additionally, parents are introduced to the concept of emergent literacy and learn how to share basic literacy skills with their young children through the simplest of means and the books they receive. This project involves all family members from parents to children and even grandparents. It brings them closer together and makes home a safe and warm environment.

The target centers in Reading in Families project are libraries, preschools, women’s empowerment centers and schools. For this project, the Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature has invited all local trainers, Read with Me librarians, preschool tutors, teachers and local promoters to bring awareness to parents and talk to them about the importance of reading in families and its role in learning literacy.

In this project, Read with Me promoters hold educational sessions for families. These sessions are mostly online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The instructions are as simple as possible. Through watching read-aloud samples and other simple instructions, parents learn to bring joy to their children through reading books.

A Reading in Families workshop held for families by a Read with Me ambassador in Sistan and Balouchestan

Mothers participating in Read with Me Basic Literacy Creative Education workshop in Zahak, Sistan and Balouchestan

The parents also receive two guidebooks made by the Read with Me team. These guidebooks include methods of sharing books with different age groups. The first one has been written considering the low literacy levels of parents. The second one includes the importance of reading, how to make conversation and hold read-aloud sessions with follow-up activities.

Read with Me experts and ambassadors supervise the implementation of this project. They report the progress of the families by filling specially designed evaluation forms. These forms intend to help the project extend and improve in the future. For further transparency within the project, two handouts have been distributed among Read with Me experts and ambassadors. The first one, “Instructions for the Reading with Families Project”, includes the points that have to be taught to the families as well as how to evaluate their progress. The second handout includes a list of books with specific descriptions, categories, age-groups and topics. These are the books that have been selected specifically for the Reading with Families project.

The COVID-19 pandemic set the grounds for reaching out to families. Children’s presence at home and parents’ involvement in their children’s studies motivated this project. Therefore, Read with Me counted these times as critical for starting the Reading with Families project. Currently, this project is running through Read with Me ambassadors in Qeshm Island, a number of cities in Sistan and Balouchestan Province, Kermanshah and Lorestan.

Inviting mothers to join the Read with Me library of their village – RahmatAbad

Two centers in Tehran have also been chosen for this project because they have already been part of the Reading with Babies and Toddlers program.

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