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Remote Literacy Learning: Families as Partners

Remote Literacy Learning: Families as Partners

You have an important role in helping develop your child’s literacy skills. You can increase the literacy learning opportunities offered by the school and set the foundation for remote and online learning at home.

What is Remote Literacy Learning?

Remote literacy learning includes a mixture of experiences that are teacher-led, family-led, and student-led. It is a collaboration among you, your child, and schools. Remote literacy learning will likely be different than the traditional school day. Typically, this is more flexible than the in-person school schedule. It often combines online and offline literacy learning opportunities.

Online literacy learning relies on learning management systems to deliver virtual literacy lessons or assignments to your child. It also may include live video chats, recorded videos, literacy apps, virtual literacy games, and e-books. Offline literacy learning usually involves print materials and educational television that promotes the development of literacy skills.

What is My Role?

Mother and Child Reading

You can coach your child’s literacy learning at home. This means guiding your child so he or she grows and succeeds. While it’s important for your child to focus on school lessons and assignments, literacy learning can happen anywhere, anytime. You can turn everyday experiences into literacy learning opportunities using household items. But, you should not feel that you need to take the place of teachers. Remote learning will look different for every family.

Families say the most helpful resources for learning at home are personal technology, personal guidance for how to best support their child, regular access to their child’s teacher, and options for remote one-on-one time/tutoring with a teacher.

What is the Role of the School?

Your child’s teacher will provide your family with information and materials for remote literacy learning. Your child’s teacher may include information on how to access and use technology, like apps, online games, or programs, to support your child’s literacy learning. Teachers often use these technologies to enhance, not replace, what they are already doing. If your child receives literacy intervention, it should continue during remote learning, but it may not look the same as it did during in-person instruction. Schools providing literacy instruction remotely must make the instruction accessible to students with disabilities and follow the goals and supports identified on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). The school’s remote learning model may not be perfect. Schools often face challenges when creating differentiated remote learning plans to reach all students. Your child’s school will likely make changes to make it better over time. Your input will help the school to know what is working and what can be improved.


Dad and Child Reading

Set up workspaces.

Think about workspaces that will enable your child’s literacy learning. Workspaces prepared with the materials and tools your child needs encourage independence and success. You can create both indoor and outdoor places to do schoolwork. Ask your child for suggestions. If possible, find spaces that limit distractions and interruptions.

Follow a schedule.

Remote literacy learning will likely require your child to have more ownership over tasks and assignments. This responsibility can bring challenges. Having consistent routines can be helpful and comforting to your child. For example, find a regular time to read books together. Setting a schedule helps your child to know what to expect. Try to have some flexibility in the schedule and allow your child to make some choices. More structure may be needed if your child has trouble organizing time, staying organized, remaining on task, or finishing tasks. Adjust the schedule based on your child’s needs. Remote literacy learning does not need to mirror the traditional school day.

Set up a positive reinforcement system.

Address any behavioral or social-emotional needs so your child can fully engage in school literacy tasks and assignments. Identify the learning behaviors you want your child to display and use positive feedback or rewards for motivation. This can also help increase your child’s on-task behavior during remote literacy learning. Celebrate and reward progress toward goals. Having choices in literacy activities or making some decisions in remote learning can encourage and motivate your child.


Mother and Child Reading

Don’t do too much at once.

Take one step at a time. Start slow, with literacy tasks or activities your child is interested in and go from there. Try to keep an open mind and be patient. It's OK if your child is challenged at some point. Encourage and support your child as he or she tries to work through an issue independently. That’s part of the learning process. Intervene when you think it’s needed.

Set learning goals.

Work with your child’s teacher to set and check literacy learning goals for home. For example, you can determine together the number of minutes to read with your child per week and and jointly track progress. The teacher will also have school literacy goals for your child. You can share any literacy goals you may have for your child too. Talking together helps the teacher better target instruction and tasks to your child’s literacy goals. It also helps if you track your child’s literacy learning progress and provide feedback to the teacher.


Child Reading

Tap into your child’s interests.

Find reading material on topics your child enjoys or is curious about. Your child’s teacher may have suggestions too, including things available at the local library or online. Look for opportunities to read around the house. If your child wants to watch a movie based on a book, try reading the book with your child first and then watch the movie as a reward. Discuss the differences or similarities between the book and the movie together.

Guide your child’s literacy learning.

Your child learns best when you guide his or her learning and understanding of reading material and activities. You can help your child in all foundational reading skills - phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension – needed to read and write well. Talk with your child’s teacher about which literacy skills are most pressing to support now and what to do. Listen to your child read and note which sounds, letters, and words seem hard and what it sounds like when your child reads aloud. Help by pausing and giving your child a chance to correct a mistake. Then, try giving your child a hint or prompt to figure it out. Encourage your child by talking together about the book or literacy task. Offer praise when successful and reassure your child when difficulties arise. Look for the literacy skills or tasks that appear difficult for your child. See if they improve with practice.

You can ask your child questions before, during, and after reading to check for understanding, summarize what is read, and re-read hard to read passages. You can do these things together, or have your child try them on his or her own. Keeping the literacy learning interactive is key. For example, you can use online tools and technology to start conversations with your child and extend literacy learning beyond the screen.

Read different types of materials.

Selecting informational material to read together can build your child’s knowledge of topics. This is especially helpful for your child’s learning in other content areas, like science and social studies. Articles, magazines, to-do lists, manuals, e-books, audio books, blogs, and other online information make good reading material too. You can help your child be a careful user of what is read online by checking the source of information and seeing if its credible.

Talk about what is being learned.

Your child doesn’t need to be reading independently to talk together about reading material. You can read aloud as your child listens. You can each take turns reading paragraphs or pages. Or, you and your child can read the same book on your own. The key is talking together about what is being read and what your child is learning through literacy lessons and assignments. When you talk and interact with your child, you promote your child’s language development, learning of how the world works, and understanding. This happens when using technology and other media for literacy learning too. For example, you can use video communication to hold virtual story time or book clubs with family and friends.

Write about what is being learned.

Writing is a way of developing your child’s reading skills as well. Tap into your child’s interests, infuse writing into daily activities, and set a purpose for writing. Most importantly, have fun. Besides paper and pencil, try using posters, slideshows, and online tools. Turn it into a blog, research project, or performance if your child wishes.  

Take breaks and switch it up.

It’s important to stop and adjust the schedule when necessary based on your child’s literacy learning needs. Return to a literacy task or assignment later if needed. Build in breaks, unstructured time, and exercise each day. Everyday events at home can be opportunities for informal literacy learning. Consider what’s best for your child’s overall health and well-being, not only for literacy learning.

Give feedback to your child’s school.

Provide feedback to the school on your child’s challenges and successes in literacy learning at home. Also, give input on the information or resources you need to support your child’s literacy learning. Communicate often with teachers. Ask questions and inform them of what’s working and what’s not.

Reach out to others.

You may want to connect with other families to share tips and learn more about what’s going on. There may be family organizations or online communities in your area. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused, these groups may be useful.


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Suggested Citation

Sayko, S. (2020). Remote Literacy Learning – Families as Partners. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Improving Literacy. Retrieved from


Learning Heroes. (2020, May). Parents 2020: COVID-19 closures a redefining moment for students, parents, & schools. Retrieved from