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Volume 13, Number 4
July/August 1997

Connecting Home and School

A Conversation with Catherine Snow


Catherine Snow discusses some of the lessons she has drawn from her work on the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy, and her earlier studies of how children develop literacy skills. Snow was interviewed for HEL by Leon Lynn.

HEL: What does a "language-rich" environment for young children look like, at home and in school?

Snow: In both places, a language-rich environment is one in which adults and children have extended conversations about interesting topics, using sophisticated vocabulary to convey complex messages. These conversations happen regularly, and the same topics can be visited on several different occasions.

HEL: Is it important that parents and teachers work together to help children develop literacy skills?

Snow: Yes. Parent-teacher relationships are very important for children's optimal progress in school. Considerable research demonstrates this. It's not really a question of whether parent involvement is good, but why. It could be that involved parents are also providing better language environments at home. Or it could be that parents who are involved learn useful things about the school culture that help them prepare their children better.

Parent-teacher involvement also can prevent miscommunications that could lead teachers to believe that parents aren't interested in their children's progress. One thing I have learned, not so much from the Home-School Study but in my earlier work on children and literacy with Jeanne Chall (at the Harvard Graduate School of Education), is that contact between parents and teachers is very positive for child outcomes. Parents get a more complete picture of what the children are doing. When teachers meet the parents, they are often impressed with how interested the parents are, and by their capacity to actually help their children. This often leads teachers to raise their expectations about what parents can offer, and to develop mechanisms for parents to help.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.