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May 5, 2020 |
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As teachers and school staff continue to create digital assignments and send home more written instructions to families, it is important to write clearly and simply so that families interpret the message as intended.

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) has guidance to help you get the message across. Consider these tips while drafting instructions:

Keep the look basic.

Use a large font and create white space. Use one or two basic fonts that are easy to read like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Put the most important information in bold type. 

Use graphics to help illustrate content; but avoid decorations, which can be distracting rather than helpful.

Write simply. 

Use only as much text as necessary to get information across. Include short sentences and bullet points. Give an example to clarify a point.

Write out acronyms and avoid jargon. Families may not be familiar with educational or district terminology.

Strive to be inclusive.

Try to write below a sixth-grade reading level. Use families and family members rather than parents, mothers, or fathers. Avoid idioms and phrases that are open to different interpretations. Remember some readers will take what you have written literally. 

Consider translating materials using Google Translate or other online tools.

Before sending to families, review your writing.

Use online tools to check for readability. Websites, such as Pro Writing Aid, will scan your writing for grammar, spelling, and jargon while also calculating a variety of readability statistics. 

If possible, ask others to review your materials.

It is important to remember that not all families in your class have the same reading level and subject background knowledge. Using these tips will help you create instructions that are clear, concise, and inclusive.

As you navigate and establish a new normal, remember that NCFL is here to support you and the families you serve. 

Is there a topic you need more help with? Could you use more support or resources for online learning? Comment below to share your thoughts.


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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