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Nov 13, 2019 |
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For 30 years, NCFL has called Louisville, Kentucky home. For three days, family literacy and learning practitioners from across the country did the same, gathering together in the Derby City for the 2019 Families Learning Conference, held Nov. 4-6.

Over 900 educators, social service providers, librarians, policymakers, and funders attended, hailing from 45 states as well as Washington, DC, Canada, and Japan.

With over 100 learning sessions on tap in seven content strands, plus 15 exhibitors and multiple networking events, there were plenty of opportunities to share resources, strategies, and ideas throughout. Together, these aspects served to help equip educators and service providers with tools to take a more holistic approach to family engagement. 

Dr. Karen Mapp stressed the importance of family engagement during her keynote.

The Conference kicked off with an informative and inspiring keynote by Dr. Karen Mapp, who remarked on the importance of family engagement, not just parent engagement, and the conditions necessary to develop and sustain effective family-school partnership initiatives. Made possible by Scholastic, Dr. Mapp’s keynote identified a variety of strategies that support student learning and school improvement.

Next, a panel of librarians from around the country discussed how culturally diverse families are often isolated from schools, libraries, and other community resources, offering solutions from their own communities during a live webcast, which was produced in partnership with the Public Library Association and sponsored by Better World Books. The day ended with the PNC Grow Up Great® Welcome Reception, which treated guests to bluegrass music, fun activities, and regional appetizers, all while celebrating a 25-year partnership between PNC and NCFL.

GED Testing Service® served as a Conference sponsor.

For nearly 30 years, NCFL has supported and worked with American Indian families through a deeply-rooted partnership with the Bureau of Indian Education and its Family and Child Education (FACE) program. It was in this spirit that Tuesday began with remarks from FACE Director Sue Bement and former FACE participant Amanda Perez-Ramirez, who shared how participating in the program not only led to her earning her GED®, but also catalyzed a fuller life for her and her children. Activist Scholar Dr. Debbie Reese challenged the audience to be more aware of misleading fictions about Native peoples, urging them to instead work to provide children with facts about American Indians, both in literature and in life.

One of NCFL family literacy’s first students, Regina Lynn broke her family's cycle of poverty.

Each year, the Tuesday evening Banquet Celebration is considered the Conference’s signature event, and this year was no different. The Banquet marked a culmination and a celebration of three decades of empowering families through literacy and learning. ABC’s Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts emceed the evening, which included remarks from Regina Lynn, one of NCFL family literacy’s first students, and Vice Chairman of Toyota’s Board of Directors, Shigeru Hayakawa. Mrs. Lynn shared her remarkable story of perseverance and determination to leave an abusive relationship and break her family’s cycle of poverty, while Mr. Hayakawa spoke to his company’s long-standing and vital partnership with NCFL. Mr. Hayakawa presented the 2019 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year awards to Colleen Ryan of Chattanooga and Andrea Greimel of San Antonio.

The Sharon Darling Innovation Fund will enable NCFL to test new family literacy innovations.

The evening culminated with a special surprise tribute to NCFL President and Founder Sharon Darling. Toyota President Akio Toyoda recorded a heartfelt congratulatory message to Sharon and her organization for empowering millions of families over 30 years. The countless individuals whose lives have been touched by Sharon’s then paid tribute to the pioneer of family literacy. NCFL’s Board of Directors provided the exclamation mark, announcing the launch of the Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will enable NCFL to test new family literacy and learning innovations in its home state before scaling successful approaches to its full network. The board announced a substantial contribution to the fund, while challenging supporters of NCFL and family literacy to meet a goal of $1 million raised by the end of the year.

To close the banquet, Diego Maldonado and his mother, Guadalupe, provided one final dose of inspiration, remarking in not one, or two, but three languages how the Toyota Family Learning program has changed the trajectory of both of their lives. Local NCFL partner, the Academy of Music Production Education and Development (AMPED), kept the dance floor alive well into the night at the Hometown Throwdown.

Though Tuesday was fulfilling in more ways than one, the Conference was far from over. Wednesday morning began bright and early with a series of two-hour deep dive sessions on topics such as family math, corporate funding, and family literacy partnerships. These were followed by the Closing Brunch, where attendees fell into fall with a special pumpkin Creme Brule while listening to the sonorous sounds of cellist Ben Sollee.  Former XPRIZE CEO Marcus Shingles stretched the minds one last time by looking to the future, and hearts were ignited by Journeyman Ink to cap it off.

Over 900 individuals attended the 2019 Families Learning Conference.

They paved the way for the final big announcement—that the 2020 Families Learning Conference will be held in Dallas, Texas Oct. 19-21! Two lucky 2019 attendees had their names drawn to receive free registrations for next year’s event. For those who still had a little steam left, a post-Conference session built around new ways of communicating family engagement followed.

From acquiring new knowledge, to meeting new faces, to gaining new inspiration from families who have changed their lives, many left the 2019 Families Learning Conference with renewed vigor and brimming with ideas to put into action.

At NCFL, we know they will return to their individual communities with tireless passion; and we hope that knowledge gained is knowledge shared—that the lessons learned from the 2019 Families Learning Conference will spread far and wide. 

A reminder that many presenters have uploaded their slides (including Dr. Karen Mapp and Dr. Debbie Reese) to their session listing in the Conference mobile app. If you attended #NCFL19, share your favorite lessons learned or moments of inspiration in the comments below!


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website