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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 Family Learning Program

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

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 reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.

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®.

Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website

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 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.

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.

PNC Grow Up Great

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Visit the Foundation website

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Better World Books

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.

The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.

Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University