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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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FINE Newsletter, Volume VIII, Issue 2
Formula for Success: Engaging Families in Early Math Learning


White House Early Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Symposium
Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) visited the White House! HFRP was recognized for its commitment to early STEM education during a STEM Symposium at the White House in April. The event illuminated the work of private and public-sector organizations dedicated to improving STEM education for America’s young learners. The Obama administration also released new actions it plans to take to support STEM learning, including releasing new educator resources and launching grant opportunities for STEM-related research.

Innovative Stories of Family Engagement From Around the World!
Family engagement and learning can happen anywhere! Harvard Family Research Project recently took a look at how organizations in countries like Brazil, Tanzania, and Chile empower families to get involved in their children’s learning. In this latest quilt of innovation in family engagement, you’ll learn about Libromat, an organization that creates libraries in South African laundromats to promote reading and interaction between mothers and their children. You’ll also have the opportunity to discover the Mother Child Education Program in Turkey, which provides a home-based training program for children who do not have access to preschool. Get inspired by great work in family engagement across the world.

Text, Play, and Tech: Partnerships Promoting Early Learning Opportunities
Technology offers a multitude of possibilities for supporting young children’s learning anywhere, anytime. To capitalize on this opportunity, HFRP highlights resources educators and parents can use to promote family engagement and playful learning. For example, did you know texting can be leveraged to boost family engagement? A recent study found that Head Start parents who received daily text messages with early-learning activity tips were more likely to engage in parent-child activities than parents who did not receive the texts. Read the study and then watch a webinar to learn how you can best integrate texting and other technological strategies into your family engagement efforts. 

The Effects of Peer Influence on Parents’ Reading Behavior at Home With Their Children
Simple tweaks to your messaging around family engagement can go a long way. Based on the idea that peer influence is widespread—but an area rarely studied in family engagement research—this Research Digest examines how information about the reading behavior of the majority of families in a school or community can influence the reading behavior of individual parents. Results of the study show that simply sharing information about other families’ reading practices can nurture families to read more with their own children. 


Parents 2016: Hearts and Minds of Parents in an Uncertain World
Parents’ perception of their child’s academic achievement is often disconnected from the reality of nationwide student performance data, a new study reveals. Surveying more than1,300 parents of K–8 public school students, the study found that 90% of parents said they thought their child was above or at grade level in math and reading. In reality, National Assessment of Educational Progress data from 2015 reported that 40% of students in fourth grade were proficient in math while only 36% were proficient in reading. Despite this disconnect, parents believe they can make a difference in the social and emotional development and academic progress of their child.


Be a Learning Hero Readiness Roadmap
Do you know how to be a hero for your child’s success? The Learning Heroes organization has launched the Readiness Roadmap, a series of resources, tools, and tips for parents to ensure their child is on track for success in school and beyond. Parents can find information on a range of topics, including parent-teacher conferences, social and emotional learning, and college access and planning. This resource-rich website also provides access to Scholastic grade-level guides that explain state standards and strategies parents can use to support learning at home. If you’re looking for tips on anything from bullying to dealing with difficult conversations, this site has it all.

To Reach Parents, Schools Try Universal Language of Data
Schools in Oakland, California, are implementing Academic Parent-Teacher Teams to involve families in the academic success of their children. In particular, Oakland’s Garfield Elementary School has used APTT to engage the school’s growing number of refugees from Burma. The APTT family engagement strategy gathers parents together three times a year to review student achievement data and practice strategies to support learning in the home. For parents whose children are behind academically, the school makes sure to present the data in a way that promotes a parental mindset focused on their children’s ability to grow, Harvard Family Research Project founder Heather B. Weiss said in the article. In a preliminary evaluation, parents at the elementary school have expressed positive feelings about the new family engagement efforts.


ED-HHS Statement on Family Engagement
The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have issued a policy statement on the implementation of effective family engagement practices from the early years to the early grades. The policy statement reviews the research base, legal requirements, and best practices that support effective family engagement; identifies core principles of family engagement practices; provides recommendations to states, state educational agencies, schools, and early childhood systems; and highlights resources to build programmatic and family capacity to be effective partners. 


Teacher Home Visits
Many teachers, administrators, parents, and children have praised the power of home visits in creating strong family-school relationships. But how do they work, and what makes them successful? This article from Education Next explores strategies the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project and the Flamboyan Foundation are using to foster family-school partnerships through home visits. It is recommended, for example, that during home visits teachers should focus on building relationships with families rather than discussing academic content and paperwork. This means teachers ask families questions such as, “What are your hopes and dreams for your child?” Check out the rest of the article to learn about other home visit strategies, and hear testimonials from parents and teachers.

HMH Family Engagement
Given the growing number of students who are English language learners in the United States, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has launched a family engagement resource kit that can be used to bolster professional development in family engagement and workshops for families to support children’s learning. Written by Sylvia Acevedo and Lise Ragan, the kit includes videos and professional development materials for educators building partnerships with families. The kit also contains relevant materials so that trained educators can host a series of five parent workshops that help families better understand the U.S. school system, and provide them with strategies to support their child’s learning and success. Each of these workshops focuses on a different element of schooling, from academic achievement to technology to support at home.

The School Readiness Playbook: A Guide for Community Partners
This report by Dana Friedman and Nina Sazer O’Donnel is a compendium of the latest thinking and best practices on community-level collaborative efforts to increase school readiness for young children. The contents are designed to equip community "players" with the knowledge they need to work together.  These players may be in law enforcement or libraries; be in school or retired; be members of a faith community or health care professionals. The Playbook includes information about how each community member can contribute.


Libraries Supporting Family Learning
The Urban Libraries Council has released a new leadership brief focused on the role of libraries in engaging families. The report highlights family engagement research and features promising family learning practices at libraries across the country. To better meet the needs of local families, the brief also encourages libraries to adopt five comprehensive action steps, which include partnering with local organizations, increasing community outreach, and creating flexible programming that accommodates families’ busy schedules, among others. By engaging families in meaningful learning opportunities, libraries can promote “a culture of learning that is passed on for generations,” according to the report.

Library 2.016: Library as Classroom Online Mini-Conference
Join Harvard Family Research Project from 4:30-5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday June 15, 2016 for  “Beyond the Library as Classroom: Two-Generation and Family Learning” as part of Library 2.0’s online mini-conference. HFRP’s  presentation will highlight creative ways to use library assets for family educational engagement based on the results of a 2016 national public library survey, revealing how libraries are partnering with families, children, and youth to promote and support learning anywhere, anytime. The event is free, but you must register to attend live or to receive the recording links.


2016 National Family & Community Engagement Conference: Owning Our Movement, Maximizing Our Impact
Mark your calendar! This year’s National Family and Community Engagement Conference runs from June 20 to 22 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. More than 75 workshops will cover a multitude of topics related to family-school-community partnerships, including how to foster parent leadership and advocacy, develop integrated and systemic family engagement strategies, and build relationships and trust in communities. The event is open to educators, families, community organizers, and other individuals dedicated to family and community engagement.

Want To Fix Education? First We Need To Remake Learning
This May, more than 30,000 families and educators throughout Pittsburgh participated in Remake Learning Days, a week featuring hundreds of events that involved digital, maker, STEM, and STEAM learning for children and adults alike. This extensive celebration of learning is the undertaking of the Remake Learning Network, a group of local organizations, schools, museums, businesses, universities, and libraries dedicated to improving teaching and learning in Pittsburgh. A key player behind this network is Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation. In this Forbes article, Behr discusses the importance of providing students with opportunities to “tinker, explore, and experiment” so they can develop the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. In addition, Behr emphasizes that parents and caregivers must have access to these experiences in order to engage the entire community in transforming public education to meet students’ needs.

Education Department Announces New Tools to Support Successful Reentry for Formerly Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Youth and adults reentering their communities after a period of incarceration often struggle to complete their education and find employment. This transition is difficult for families, too. In response, the U.S. Department of Education has developed a new toolkit to guide educators in providing support for returning citizens. The toolkit includes information on how to develop program infrastructure, partnerships, and educational services that support formerly incarcerated individuals’ transitions into and out of a correctional facility. The Reentry Education Toolkit also provides program self-assessment tools, guidelines for supporting career pathways, and case examples from successful program sites.


Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing About STEM!
“One, two, buckle my shoe.” The latest series of tip sheets for families from the U.S. Department of Education and Too Small to Fail encourages families with young children to count, sing, rhyme, and read in ways that support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning. For example, parents can have their toddler compare the sizes of measuring spoons while they cook or bake. Or families can quiz young children about the textures of different foods during a visit to the grocery store. Using simple ideas and strategies, the tip sheets aim to help parents integrate STEM concepts and learning into everyday activities with their children. Educators can also find a variety of strategies and ideas for teaching preschoolers and toddlers addition, shapes, earth sciences, technology, and much more. All tip sheets are available in Spanish and English.


This resource is part of the May 2016 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project