How to involve parents in children’s language development

How to involve parents in children’s language development

By Dr Jeremy Koay

In countries where English is not a mainstream language, many children learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

One of the challenges that some parents in EFL environments report is that they are not able to teach their children English due to their own limited English language proficiency.

Here are five tips (or reminders, more likely) to help parents participate actively in their children’s learning without necessarily having excellent language proficiency. As teachers, you can suggest some of these ideas to the parents in your EFL classes.

Ask what your children have learned in school

When you pick up your children from school, ask them what they have learned in school. Although your children may not remember everything, asking them questions about their English classes shows them that you are interested in their learning.

Ask your children to teach you something

You can ask your children to teach you something interesting from their English classes. When they teach you something they learned in school, they are actively engaging with what they have learned. Take what they teach you seriously. If they teach you a new word, write it on a card and stick it on your fridge.

Learn with your children

Learning a new language with your children can be a memorable experience for both parents and children. If English is your foreign language, consider reading your children’s books with them. Use a dictionary to find out meanings of unfamiliar words. Graded readers are an excellent idea. They are books that are written for language learners with different language levels. Read these books with your children.

Have family reading time

Reading widely and for pleasure is one of the most effective ways to learn a language. Set aside half an hour to an hour each day for family reading time. Put down your smartphones and switch off your televisions. Your children should have a book or magazine that they enjoy reading. End the reading session with a short discussion of what they found interesting.

Visit a public library together

It is sometimes said that one of the best gifts you can give your children is the love of libraries. Visit a local public library with your children once a week. Teach them how to borrow books. Give them to freedom to select books that they like. If it turns out they don’t like the book they borrowed, assure them that they don’t have to finish it. When your family visits a country for holidays, bring your children to the local library.


Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL.

Image source: shutterstock.com/New Africa

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