The Effects of Poverty on Children’s Ability to be Independent Thinkers

Adapted from the book: Family Engagement and Nurturing Children to be Independent Thinkers: an essential handbook for school administrators and teaching professionals

Research demonstrates that family engagement is a dynamic, interactive process that provides a pathway to student success.  Family engagement is a shared responsibility among families, community organizations and schools.  Families are core in the learning process of children and it takes commitment to actions of families and schools working together to support student success.  It is through this shared responsibility that schools reach out to engage families in meaningful ways to actively support their child’s learning and development.  Even though students may come from poverty, they can still be led in the right direction to becoming independent thinkers.

            Here are some ideas to encourage parents from poverty to become engaged in their child’s learning:

  • When planning programs at school for parents to attend, use the “museum format” rather than large group settings.  This encourages families to come out to the school and allows them to come and go to match their busy schedules.  This format has a welcoming atmosphere that is nonthreatening and gives families the freedom to move around to areas that interest them.
  • Use videos that are less than fifteen minutes in length to inform parents about important and helpful information they can use when helping their child at home.
  • Print materials should include pictures, graphics or drawings to help with understanding the message.   This will be less intimidating to parents who have difficulty reading.  Keep the information short, simple and to the point.  Avoid lengthy, text-based informational school flyers and papers because parents have limited time to read and might think the information is not related to their child.
  • Offer coffee as a welcoming gesture to reach families from home of poverty; coffee is frequently perceived as a sign of welcome.
  • Think about the needs of the whole family and allow children to come with their parents.  School children can help their parents to navigate the school building and help them to feel more comfortable.

It is important to take into consideration the various reasons for the lack of parental involvement and to be sensitive to the different needs that children have in their homes that are out of our control as educators.  Being knowledgeable of the research on children in poverty can make an impact on educational decisions that will affect student success and future goals.

For more innovative outreach ideas, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit.