Read Naturally founder Candyce Ihnot is blogging again! Last year, after starting a Read Live reading lab in a new school, Candyce wrote a series of blog posts about her experiences. Teachers couldn’t get enough of her helpful tips & tricks, endless wisdom, and relatable stories. Due to popular demand, she is back again this year to share even more Stories from the Lab. In this post, she describes the many benefits of inviting parents and teachers into the reading lab.

Open Lab Days Benefit Us All
By Candyce Ihnot

For two days, the Read Naturally Live lab was packed with students, parents, and volunteer teachers! The energy in the room was positive, and the excitement was genuine. Children and their parents were working together on stories, and the teacher volunteers were providing guidance when needed. Why hadn’t I done this before?

After opening the Read Naturally Live lab in a new school last year, I decided I needed to do something to inform parents, teachers, and other school personnel about the reading program new to their school. So, I sent an invitation to the parents of my students asking them to join their children in the lab. I offered the parents two “open lab days” and listed their child’s scheduled reading time on this invitation. I wondered if anyone would come…

Being a former girl scout, I followed the mantra, “Be prepared,” and gathered a few things to make the experience fun for the children, informative for the parents, and easy for me. I made copies of the Read Live poster and a short explanation of each step. I found a few extra earphones and some splitters so the parents could actually share their child’s experience. And, I drew a map of how to set up the room so each child had an extra chair nearby. And then I waited...

Except for one parent who emailed an RSVP (though I didn’t ask for a response), I didn’t hear anything from anyone! I didn’t even get a single question or concern from the teachers. The silence was a bit unnerving!

But when the first open lab day arrived, I was overwhelmed by the response. Several parents came, and to my delight, there was a mix of both mothers and fathers. Each parent took the handouts, earphones, and splitters, and then “plugged in” with their child. The children proudly taught their parents about the Read Live program by working through part of a story with them. The parents praised, corrected, and encouraged their children. Everyone left with a smile. The same was true for the second open lab day.

What happened next was even more amazing. During the following two weeks, three parents, who could not make it to the open labs, visited the lab on their own time to work with their children. The classroom teachers also found a way to come to the lab and work with their students. The special education teacher came in to work with her students too. The children loved the attention, and I loved all the extra hands in the lab!

I have long believed that educating students is a team sport. The parents, teachers, and students all need to work together to maximize student achievement. When the parents and teachers have a relationship with me, and a good understanding of the work the children are doing in the reading lab, it has great benefits for everyone involved—especially the students. I can hardly wait to open the lab again for another team meeting.