Ten ways you can make a difference

Research shows that students whose parents are involved in their school earn higher grades, score better on tests and are more likely to attend college.

Becoming involved in your child’s education pays off in many ways. Parent involvement strengthens schools and shows children that you value learning. Research shows that students whose parents are involved in their education are more likely to earn higher grades, score better on standardized tests, and attend college.

What’s more, you’ll benefit directly by taking an active role. You’ll meet other parents and quickly learn the ins and outs of your child’s school. Read on for some ways to become active and make a difference in your child’s education.

1. Start now

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. You don’t have to wait until parent-teacher conferences to get to know your kindergartner’s teacher. Sometime during the first week or so of school, find a moment to say a quick hello. Or send a handwritten note or e-mail. Ask the teacher whether there’s anything she needs. Find out how the teacher prefers to be contacted. This will set a positive tone for the year.

2. Help out in the classroom

Most kindergarten teachers welcome help from enthusiastic parents. What you do in the classroom will depend on what the teacher needs. It may include preparing materials for lessons and art projects, reading to the class, or making copies of worksheets. If you’re unable to commit to a regular schedule, let your child’s teacher know that you still would like to help out with special projects.

3. Become a room parent

Most kindergarten teachers assign one or two parents to plan class parties and other special activities, and coordinate communication between the teacher and the parents. Being a room parent is generally a yearlong assignment, so make sure you can commit to it. It’s a great way to get to know the teacher!

3. Volunteer from home

If you can’t make it into the classroom during the day, let the teacher know you’d like to help out in other ways. You could make phone calls to other parents in the evening, help prepare materials for lessons, and more. Bringing your volunteer ethic home shows your child that school is important. It will also help strengthen your connection with the teacher.

4. Be a special guest

Visit your child’s classroom to share something special about yourself, such as your occupation, your cultural background, or an interesting hobby. Your child will be proud to let everyone know you’re her parent!

5. Learn about your child’s school

Read the school handbook to learn about school policies. Stay informed by reading school and parent-teacher group newsletters. If the school has a website, visit it regularly for updates and information.

6. Reach out to other parents

Look for opportunities to get to know the parents of your child’s classmates. Volunteer to chaperone field trips. Attend class parties and assemblies. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself, and be sure to exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The other parents will be an invaluable support system during the first year of school and beyond.

7. Attend school events

Make it a point to go to assemblies, open houses, art shows, and other schoolwide events, even ones your child isn’t directly involved with. School events are a great place to meet staff members and other parents, and going together will help your child feel more at home in his new school.

8. Talk with your child about school

When your child comes home from school, ask specific questions to draw her out. Instead of saying “How was your day?” ask “What was the best thing that happened to you today at school?” and “Tell me one new thing that you learned today in kindergarten.”

9. Show your child that school matters

Praise your child’s efforts. Show him how wonderful his schoolwork is by posting artwork and school papers on the refrigerator for everyone to see. Communicate the idea, in both words and actions, that school is important.

10. Join the PTO or PTA

Your school parent group is a terrific way to learn about your child’s school. You’ll forge lasting connections with the parents you meet, and you’ll have a role in making your child’s school a fun and exciting place to learn.