Director of Family Resource Network to Give Strategies for Involving Parents in ESL Instruction

Attendees listen to a speaker at a previous ESL Symposium.
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Attendees listen to a speaker at a previous ESL Symposium.

When Jane Adams needed services to help her child be successful in school and life, she worked hard to find them and keep them. Then, she joined a group of other parents to form a nonprofit organization that helps ensure other families in Kansas have access to resources for children with learning, language and behavior issues.

Adams, director of Keys for Networking Inc. based in Topeka, Kansas, since 1994, is the featured speaker of this year's ESL Symposium at the University of Arkansas. The symposium's theme is "Connecting with Parents of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Students to Promote Positive Outcomes."

The 10th annual symposium takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1325 N. Palak Drive, Fayetteville. Cost and registration information are available online.

Keys for Networking has hosted a Parent Information and Resource Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education for eight years, teaching and supporting disenfranchised parents to engage in the efforts of No Child Left Behind.

"As part of that effort, we offered the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youth program to approximately 1,000 newly immigrated Hispanic families to develop their skills to prepare their children's readiness to start school in Kansas," Adams said. "The majority of these parents continue to use our services. We learned to appreciate the hope of newly immigrated families, for work, life and school for their children in this county. We learned how scared they were of large organizations, of answering questions about their employment and educational histories. We learned how hopeless they felt understanding the Kansas school system. We learned to listen to them so we could help them individually."

The ESL symposium gives educators tools to work more effectively with children who speak English as a second language, and parent involvement is vital. Adams will relate her experience to the ways teachers and parents can work together.

"I am the parent of a child who had difficulty in school and in life, and even though I had all the education in the world, I found myself at odds with the school and community service providers because we could not agree on how to help her," she said. "As the director of the Kansas family information network, I lead a staff who are also parents of children with special education and emotional needs. We provide information to parents related to helping children succeed in school and in the community. We also support parents via phone calls and trainings to use that information. We stay in touch with parents, often for the whole life of their child, and we often serve the second and third generation of families. I believe we all as parents need help sometimes, offered with the respect and acknowledgement that we are doing our best from what we know at the time."

Adams said participants of the ESL Symposium will learn to enlist parents as a specific intervention to meet specific language and general academic outcomes.

"For example, asking parents to help with a target outcome of learning 10 math vocabulary words within a week, two weeks or month time frame is way more possible than the general task of engaging more, doing more with the school or classroom," she said. "The workshop will focus precisely targeted requests to parents to help with specific tasks. Classroom teachers will develop skills to use motivational strategies that are important to parents and increase their understanding of why the task is important to their child's immediate success as opposed to general statements that children whose parents are engaged do better in school."

Adams said she is excited to come to the university and learn from teachers who work directly with children.


Heidi S. Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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