Parents and Schools Together to Enhance Learning (PASTEL) Program
Although many parents and caregivers engage their child with reading in the home, many do not know or have access to home-based activities that will best support their child’s literacy development.
The Parents and Schools Together to Enhance Learning (PASTEL) program provides parents and caregivers with 65 fun and easy-to-use activities aimed at improving childrens’ pre-literacy and literacy skills. PASTEL activities are organized by one of the four critical skill areas a child should develop by age 12, including Emergent Literacy (such as language skills and identifying letters), Phonics, Text Reading Fluency, and Comprehension.
The main goals of PASTEL are to:
- Improve children’s emerging and early literacy skills by offering parents/caregivers fun, easy-to-use, and research-based literacy activities that can be used at home
- Increase positive communication between teachers and families in a way that is meaningful, time-efficient, and centered around a child’s developing literacy skills
- Provide parents with helpful information that should enhance their understanding of literacy development, their communication with educators in schools, and their child’s overall success in school
As is described in more detail below, PASTEL is:
- Supported by rigorous research
- Appropriate for children from birth through age 12
- Easy to access
- Feasible to use (parents, caregivers, educators, and community volunteers can implement it effectively and time-efficiently)
Research Supporting the PASTEL Program
To create the PASTEL program, its lead developers and their colleagues (a) drew on their expertise on literacy development and instruction and (b) conducted a thorough search of the relevant research literature to identify evidence-based practices that support emerging and early literacy.
Each PASTEL activity was then tested with numerous parents, teachers, and community volunteers (pilot testers) in a range of different settings, including homes, after-school programs, and childcare centers. Collectively, these pilot testers represented a highly diverse group across a range of characteristics, such as age, race, socio-economic status, marital status, educational background, occupation, etc. Based on careful observation and feedback from pilot testers, data for each activity was reviewed and the activity was accordingly revised, further tested, and enhanced even more based on new data. In short, this type of cyclical process was used until all activities and associated materials were deemed to (a) be feasible and desirable for parents to use, (b) have evidence that it could be used accurately, (c) be fun and engaging for a large number of children, (d) address an important component of early language or literacy, and (e) have the potential to support a child’s learning in that area of literacy. The same cyclical process was used to develop and refine the demonstration videos accompanying each activity, supplemental forms (such as activity tracking forms, communication forms for parents and teachers), and materials for using an optional motivation system.
The PASTEL development process also included some experimental research studies to examine the program and its potential benefit to children, parents, and teachers. Although these studies revealed positive indicators of the program being beneficial, research continues to be conducted with PASTEL to further understand is impact for children, parents, caregivers, and teachers.
Accessing the PASTEL Materials
All program materials are included in the PASTEL Guidebook. The Guidebook explains how to implement the PASTEL program and includes 65 activities for children aged birth through 12. It also includes the reproducible forms and charts needed to implement the program.
You are welcome to download the Guidebook for free and then print and self-assemble the pages in a 3-ring binder.
Alternatively, for approximately the same cost of printing and assembling the Guidebook yourself, our team at Helps Education Fund can send you a spiral-bound PASTEL Guidebook, including all activities. Not only do parents, caregivers, and teachers find this option convenient, but 100% of proceeds from sales of PASTEL materials go toward our organizational mission—including our ability to develop and freely disseminate even more high-quality educational programs.
If you are interested in purchasing a set of PASTEL activities for a certain age or grade level, please contact us. Otherwise, the button below provides access to the full set of PASTEL activities that can be used wit children from birth through 12.
We send you the spiral-bound Guidebook ready to use. 100% of your purchase supports our mission!
You download, print, and assemble the Guidebook.
Training for PASTEL Program
Free or Low-Cost Training Workshops
The primary focus of PASTEL trainings is to show parents, caregivers, and educators how to use the program most successfully and to answer all questions. Past attendees of our PASTEL workshops have described them as engaging, informative, fun, and beneficial for getting the most from PASTEL.
- An expert trainer can walk you through PASTEL’s key features, activities, and directions to provide a guided introduction to the program.
- An expert trainer can address your specific questions, needs, and concerns related to PASTEL.
- Beyond the training, the expert trainer can be a valuable resource for you as you and others use the activities with kids and have new or lingering questions.
Workshops for Parents and Caregivers are specifically designed to show parents, childcare providers, early childhood educators in childcare centers, after-school program staff or volunteers, and all other types of “caregivers” how to implement and benefit most from PASTEL.
Workshops for Professional Educators are similar to the training for Parents and Caregivers, but they are catered to help school-based educators benefit most from PASTEL (such as how to best use and share PASTEL with families of children in your school). We use “professional educator” to refer to classroom teachers, principals, speech-language pathologists, reading specialists, and all other types of professionals who support student learning in school-based settings.
Although we offer trainings on how to most effectively use PASTEL, we know that some parents, caregivers, and educators may not be able to attend a training. Section 1 of the PASTEL Guidebook (pp. 9-62) provides detailed information for using PASTEL and the remaining pages of the Guidebook offer all the activity materials. Each activity in Section 2 of the Guidebook is also accompanied by a video demonstration on YouTube (video links are listed in the Guidebook).
Frequently Asked Questions About PASTEL
There are 3 main goals:
- Improve children’s emerging and early literacy skills by offering parents/caregivers fun, easy-to-use, and research-based literacy activities that can be used at home;
- Increase positive communication between teachers and families in a way that is meaningful, time-efficient, and centered around a child’s developing literacy skills; and
- Provide parents with helpful information that should enhance their understanding of literacy development, their communication with educators in schools, and their child’s overall success in school.
PASTEL activities are:
- Organized by the students age and/or grade
- Organized by one of the four (4) critical skill areas a child should develop by age 12:
- Emerging Literacy (such as language skills and identifying letters)
- Text Reading Fluency
Each activity comes with:
- easy to use instructions about how to engage the child with the activity
- printable materials (if needed)
- a brief video demonstration
Each description will also include other information, such as how long the activity should be used with the child and fun ways to modify the activity.
PASTEL development was led by six individuals with diverse areas of experience and expertise, including but not limited to areas such as using effective literacy instruction for children birth to grade 6, instructional design for usable reading activities, home-school-community collaboration, educational research, home-based literacy development, reading development for dual-language learners, and more.
Lead developers and many of their team members used both (a) existing expertise on literacy development and instruction, and (b) a thorough search of the research literature to identify relevant evidence-based practices that support emerging and early literacy.
From developers’ expertise and the comprehensive review of the research, a large set of initial (prototype) PASTEL activities were developed in the four key areas of literacy development: 1) Emergent Literacy, 2) Phonics, 3) Fluency, and 4) Comprehension.
Additionally, activities were developed in a way that would seem reasonable for parents or community volunteers to use; that is, for users who may have limited time, do not necessarily have a professional background in literacy instruction, and desire activities that would be fun and engaging for children.
Each PASTEL activity was tested with numerous parents and community volunteers (i.e., pilot testers) in a range of different settings (e.g., homes and childcare centers). Collectively, these pilot testers also represented a highly diverse group across a range of characteristics, such as age, race, socioeconomic status, marital status, educational background, occupation, etc. From there, additional research studies were conducted to evaluate and understand the impact of PASTEL for children and families.
Children from birth through age 12
PASTEL can be used by any person who is invested in developing the emerging and early literacy skills of children from birth to age 12 and has the opportunity to interact with them. PASTEL users can include:
- Parents and other caregivers (for example, grandparents, babysitters, older siblings).
- Educators working in schools or after-school settings (PASTEL provides simple, research-based activities they can easily suggest to parents and caregivers).
- Volunteers and staff who work in school-based settings such as childcare centers, after-school programs, or pre-schools.
There are many reasons, including that:
- Too many children do not have proficient literacy skills. Those who become proficient with foundational literacy skills (in areas such as phonics, fluency, and others) generally have more positive schooling experiences, are more likely to identify as readers, are more likely to read for enjoyment, and are more likely to be afforded a wider range of life opportunities.
- Research has shown that parent involvement and effective home-school collaboration are two key factors in facilitating a child’s literacy development and overall success in school.
- Although many parents are involved with literacy activities in the home, many are not aware of certain types of activities that can enhance their child’s foundational literacy development.
- In many communities, positive communication between a child’s teacher and parent is nonexistent or too infrequent. PASTEL helps to address this issue with positive communication about reading development.
- There are many literacy activities available on the web, but most of these activities are limited because (a) they are not specifically designed with parents in mind; (b) they are not developed according to research evidence suggesting what works best; and/or (c) they do not provide clear descriptions, materials, or video demonstrations related to selecting or using the activity.
- A child’s literacy development is greatly enhanced by having in-person activities from a caring adult (compared to having too many activities that require a computer or other forms of technology). PASTEL activities do not require technology and can also be helpful for parents who want to minimize a child’s screen time and, instead, connect with the child by using game-like reading activities.
Parents can use PASTEL as an opportunity to initiate or strengthen communication and collaboration between home and school. Just as some examples, parents can:
- Keep track of PASTEL activities completed at home in the easy-to-use PASTEL Activity Tracking Form and shares this information with teachers.
- Talk to teachers about specific PASTEL activities that could be used to best complement what the teacher is doing in the classroom.
- Ask the teacher if your child has any particular literacy skills (such as sounding out words, reading with better fluency or comprehension) that should be focused upon at home with PASTEL activities. Oftentimes, if a student is struggling in a particular area, a combination of focused support at school and home will benefit the student most.
- Work with a teacher or school to build a community around home literacy support. After developing a good relationship around literacy with your child’s teacher, some parents might be empowered to develop ways that will support other children and families in the community. For example, through a parent’s and teacher’s experience with PASTEL, there may be opportunities to involve even more families around the topics of home literacy and positive home-school communication.
All program materials can be found in the PASTEL guidebook, including:
- 65 fun, easy-to-use activities to improve key literacy skills of children aged birth-12
- key information needed to use PASTEL
- several important supplemental materials, such as
- a phoneme pronunciation guide,
- optional reading passages to use with PASTEL activities,
- an activity tracking form that parents and educators can use for enhanced communication about a child's reading development
- an optional “Star Chart” motivational system.
PASTEL is free to download, print, and self-assemble in 3-ring binders.
Alternatively, for the same cost of printing and assembling the PASTEL materials yourself, our team at Helps Education Fund can ship you a spiral bound PASTEL guidebook. Not only do parents, caregivers, and teachers find this option convenient, but 100% of proceeds from sales of PASTEL materials go toward our organizational mission—including our ability to develop and freely disseminate even more high-quality educational programs.
Click here to access the PASTEL materials
PASTEL is offered for free to ensure that any parent, caregiver, or educator that wants to support an individual’s literacy development and education is able to do so, regardless of their financial circumstances. The advancement of educational equity is at the core of Helps Education Fund’s organizational mission.
No. PASTEL activities are intentionally low-tech for two main reasons:
First, an important part of PASTEL activities is for the child to get close attention and time from a caring adult who wants to support and encourage the child’s literacy development. Sophisticated materials or computer technology are not needed to accomplish this very important element of literacy development, and in some cases it can even hinder the time and attention between caregiver and child.
Second, those who developed PASTEL, and those who disseminate it, are committed to educational equity. In this way, because many parents and children do not have access to the computer technology often required of high-tech education games, the goal was to develop an effective program that could be accessed by as many parents, children, and teachers as possible.
Yes! We offer trainings for anyone who can benefit from PASTEL, such as parents, caregivers, childcare providers, community volunteers who support students’ literacy development, and professional educators working in schools.
For more information about training and dates for our upcoming workshops, please see the Training section on this page.