SPIRE Project: Parental Involvement in Young Children’s ESL Reading Development

  •  Madhubala Harji    
  •  Kavitha Balakrishnan    
  •  Krishnanveni Letchumanan    


Realising the clear dichotomy between schools and homes, the Malaysia government has now turned its attention to stakeholders and called for an increase involvement of parents, who are critical in transforming the education system. However, a clear line of demarcation continues to exist between the two prime educators of young children. Schools have yet to fully embrace the concept of active parental involvement, particularly in academic matters and have yet to design formalised programmes that provide avenues for active parental involvement. The six month Smart Partnership in Reading in English (SPIRE) formalised programme, which created a platform for non-native parents to play a more active role in developing early literacy skills in young children, particularly, reading skills in English language, was explored as an option. 25 non-native five year old children, 25 parents and the class teacher were involved in the programme. A rich ESL literacy environment was created both at school and homes by making a wide range of English storybooks and multimedia materials available for the children to be taken home. The parent-teacher partnership scaffold the children’s reading development. The teacher reads storybooks in school and the parents at home. Qualitative data gathered via interviews, home visits, meetings and informal conference provided evidence for parents’ positive attitudes towards reading English storybooks and towards being involved in their child’s reading development, a positive link between levels of parental involvement and reading development, and the plausibility of involving non-native parents through a formalised reading programme. The SPIRE programme explored in the Malaysian context can also be adopted in non English speaking countries for similar purposes.

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