Rural schools have their own unique challenges, very different than urban or suburban schools. For the Hispanic children in these schools, the daily life issues facing them include poverty, travel distance, housing, and fear.
One in four babies born in the U.S. is Hispanic and, more than ever, they are being born into immigrant families who live in rural America, not the big cities. As a result, many of these children have a hard time realizing their full potential or escaping poverty. A big positive difference occurs when schools help offer support to them and their families.
Over 80% of all English Language Learners (ELLs) are Spanish-speaking. With the Hispanic population steadily remaining the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States, schools and educators need to find effective ways to encourage parental involvement in their students’ education.
Some ways to reach out to Spanish-speaking parents in rural schools include:
- Use Their Language: It is important for teachers to find an adult who can translate or interpret communications with Spanish-speaking parents. It is best to not rely on students, as this practice can lead to disempowering parents. Teachers can ask a school employee, family member, a friend, a parent liaison, or a community member to translate. Also, teachers should translate all written communications.
- Inform Parents about the U.S. School System: Teachers should take the time to educate Spanish-speaking parents about how the U.S. School System works. It is a good idea to inform teachers about school curriculum, standards, benchmarks, school expectations, and school curriculum.
- Set Up Home and Community Visits: Teachers should establish relationships with parents who work during school and after-school hours. Some Spanish-speaking parents might feel intimidated by coming to the school setting, so a home visit may seem more comfortable.
- Encourage Parents to Come Into the School: Some ways to encourage parental involvement include hosting a Spanish-language back-to-school night, recruiting parents to volunteer at events or to teach activities such as cooking, crafts, or storytelling with bilingual books.
- Meet at a convenient and central location: Since travel distance is a big issue in rural areas, it is important to determine a meeting place that is central to all the Hispanic families in the area. It could be a community center, a church, or a meeting hall.
- Foster Parental Involvement: Educators can foster parental involvement by asking parents to partake in homework sessions with their children. Since parents are either Spanish-speaking only or ELLs, educators should suggest that parents incorporate bilingual books into their parental involvement techniques.
The Latino Family Literacy Project offers workshops and webinars that can help educators and schools reach out to Spanish-speaking parents. The Project offers suggestions on how to communicate with Spanish-speakers and provides ideas on how to get parents involved in the education of their children. Research shows that when parents are involved in their children’s education, their children perform better in school. The Project takes pride in helping educators and administrators better communicate with Spanish-speaking parents, hence fostering education and literacy skills in Hispanic children.
How to Reach Hispanic Families in Rural Schools