Ideas and Activities for a Successful Literacy Night

Hosting a family literacy night or reading night is a great opportunity to get parents involved in the school and grow students’ love of reading. Parents don’t often get a glimpse of what their child is working on and doing at school each day, but with literacy nights, you can bring the parent into the school and share literacy tips and research.

Of course, a well-planned literacy night can take time and effort to put together. I want to pass along some planning tips, literacy night themes, and activities you can use as you plan.

What is a Family Literacy Night?

Also called family reading night, a literacy night is a chance to provide important information about a child’s literacy skills and share reading strategies with families. It’s also an opportunity to get families involved in the school and student learning.

During the literacy night, you can focus on one literacy skill such as reading, or you can explore reading and writing in one event.

Literacy night can be a school wide event with teachers and admin all involved, or it can be hosted by the library with support of other staff members. Either way, you’ll want to ensure you have plenty of people helping you get the word out, set up for the event, and be present on literacy night.

What are the benefits of Family Literacy Night?

The goal of family literacy night is to get families familiar with literacy strategies that they can implement with their children. The parents won’t walk away as full-fledged ELA teachers, but instead, have an awareness of literacy research and a few activities they can implement easily at home.

A lot of times, parents want to help their children with homework or grow their skills – but they don’t know how or what they should be doing. Literacy night allows them the chance to ask questions and be a part of their child’s educational growth – which is so powerful!

Literacy Night Themes and Activities

When it’s time to plan your literacy night, I recommend picking a theme! This isn’t required by any means, but it can make it easier to plan. For example, a beach theme can help you come up with themed prompts, books, and even invitations. It also helps the event flow and feel fun. 

While the focus of the event may not be “fun”, I think all learning should have a little bit of that mixed in – especially when we talk about reading. Many students struggle to find enjoyment in literacy, so any way you can add excitement and engagement can have a positive impact.

Here are a few of my favorite literacy night themes, along with an activity you can use –

Camp Learn-A-Lot

Bring out all the camp-themed gear for this literacy night theme. Think s’mores, tents, bonfires, and more. This activity is easy to set up inside the school, or if you lack a big enough space, you can also host outdoors!

For Camp Learn-A-Lot, implement a “S’mores Writing” station. Create a graphic organizer or print out showing can students can layer elements of writing to create a S’more. (This is a different take on the hamburger paragraph!) With this activity, you can share with families the need to text evidence and have them recreate this simple formula when writing. Here’s how it might look –

Graham Cracker – Topic Sentence

Marshmallow – Text Evidence

Chocolate – Supporting Details

Graham Cracker – Concluding Sentence

Out of this World

Channel your inner spacer-lover for this literacy night theme. You can have different elements here about stars, planets, space, and even astronauts. This is another literacy night theme that can be taken outside if needed.

A great Out of this World activity is close reading with a student’s choice of text. With this activity, share close reading skills with parents (such as highlighting key elements or reading multiple times). You can also talk about the power of choice, and let students pick what they read.

Then, set out nonfiction texts on different space-related topics, such as planets, space missions, or Neil Armstrong.

Around the World

There are lots of activities you can implement for an Around the World theme. You can read and write about different cultures, traditions, countries, and famous people of different backgrounds.

For the Around the World theme, I recommend an imagery-based activity. I like sharing this activity with parents because it’s something they can easily implement at home while cooking, exploring a new place, or watching TV.

Have several photos available of places around the world, such as Greece or India. Then, have students describe what they see in the image. To challenge their thinking, have them write what they might hear, smell, or feel in that location. For instance, if they are by the water, they might hear waves. This will challenge students’ thinking and writing abilities!

Movie Night

This is always a popular theme with families, and there are many possibilities for literacy night activities. You can center activities around popular films and characters, popcorn, the cinema, and more.

During a movie night, I like to talk about the skill of retelling with families. Choose picture books or short stories that match the movie theme. Then, give students a graphic organizer with the beginning, middle, and end and have them chart the story. (You can make the graphic organizer look like an old movie tape, for an extra thematic moment.)

Share with parents about the importance of retelling, and how they can implement this simple activity at home. After reading a bedtime story or watching a TV show, talk about the beginning, middle, and end together.

I hope these literacy night activity ideas help you plan a successful event. At the end of the day, remember to have fun with it and focus on getting parents involved in student learning.

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