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Jun 6, 2022 |
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In 2018, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) received federal funding to launch Arizona’s first Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) to increase parent involvement and academic achievement. Now in its fourth year, the Arizona SFEC demonstrates how NCFL effectively partners with school districts and state and local organizations to develop larger systems of family engagement, family literacy, and family leadership that support equitable and thriving communities.

Recently, NCFL’s president Dr. Smith visited Arizona to meet with NCFL’s SFEC partners, see the work in action, and discuss opportunities for expansion in order to reach more families. It was clear that through collective action, the Arizona SFEC is providing families in school districts across the state with opportunities to develop the skills and confidence to reach their goals and support their children’s academic and social-emotional growth. Key initiatives that comprise the Arizona SFEC include early childhood literacy development program Raising a Reader (birth–preschool) carried out by Southwest Human Development and Make Way for Books; NCFL’s Family Literacy model carried out in Title I schools (K–3); emerging reader book distribution to families to build home libraries provided by Unite for Literacy; and NCFL’s parent leadership programming that is offered to parent participants in family literacy programs.

The following video highlights the collaborative efforts of the SFEC partners:

During Dr. Smith’s visit, Arizona SFEC participants and school staff emphasized how the initiative has an impact beyond school walls and across multiple indicators of well-being and prosperity. NCFL staff had the opportunity to talk with Katlyn Rivera, a family literacy participant at O.C. Johnson Elementary School in Yuma Public School district, to hear how her experiences in the family literacy program have supported her son’s reading gains.  She said, “We started doing more Parent and Child Together Time (PACT Time) and focusing on that. I didn’t realize how bad he was struggling, and then Amanda [the site coordinator at O.C. Johnson] started giving me tips. We did a whole reading and rhyme section. They just told me, 'He’s picking up reading, he’s doing better in class.'”

Katlyn Rivera and O.C. Johnson Elementary's family literacy program participants with NCFL staff
Katlyn Rivera and O.C. Johnson Elementary's family literacy program participants with NCFL staff

Katlyn also spoke about the challenges she encountered as a result of the pandemic. She credits the program for increasing her confidence as well as her social networks, which helped her to believe in her ability to apply for and start a new job. She also spoke to the strong friendships between mothers in the program, “When I came to this program I said, ‘I’m just here to learn. I’m not here to make friends…but it’s become its own little community.’”

At Lattie Coor Elementary School in Phoenix, the team learned about family literacy participant Ana Sticney’s journey in the family literacy program and how through it, she has strengthened her relationship with her children’s school in multiple ways.

Listen to Ana's story:

The Arizona SFEC demonstrates a template for coordinating and aligning multi-generational programs in communities that build strong systems to support children and families across the age continuum. The Arizona SFEC is nothing without the critical contributions and expertise of its partners. NCFL recognizes and thanks the following Arizona partners for their work and collaboration throughout the project: Arizona Department of Education, Avondale School District, Cartwright School District, Make Way for Books, Mesa Public Schools, Read on Arizona, Southwest Human Development, Tucson Unified School District, Unite for Literacy, and Yuma Public Schools.

Related: At the Heart of Family Learning: Meeting the needs of families through family literacy programming


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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