Studies show parental involvement is very important for a child's success in school. But for some parents of ethnic minority students, especially those from immigrant families, there is a mismatch between school and family expectations when it comes to parental involvement.
Back to school means backpacks and books for kids. Rita Prats-Rodriguez is the director of a preschool in East Harlem, an underserved New York City neighborhood.
"They have many family challenges in terms of housing, in terms of jobs, in terms of documentation," Prats-Rodriguez told Ivanhoe.
Gigliana Melzi, PhD, studies the ways Latino parents support children's learning and development.
"So even in communities and families who are living in poverty, if the parent is highly engaged, the children are going to succeed," said Melzi.
Melzi said most measures of parental engagement are based on white, English-speaking families. She examined what involvement looks like for Latino families. Melzi worked with 463 families and suggests these strategies: teach foundational skills at home, like how to share and work with others. Supplement education by taking children to the library or a museum. Engage in direct school participation including activities at school or meetings with teachers.
"I think that they should also be mindful of what the expectations are of the U.S. educational system," said Melzi.
Finally, Melzi said parents should be future oriented, reminding children that education is important to succeed.
The study found many low-income Latino families were already involved in their children's education at home, but some faced challenges to direct school involvement, like language barriers. Parents should try working with the school to see what they can do at home to enhance their child's education, while incorporating cultural values.