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Nov 22, 2022 |
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November is National Family Literacy Month, and NCFL has been sharing resources in family literacy throughout the month in a variety of ways, including on social media. We hope you’ve found these resources useful. We also recently celebrated Kentucky Family Engagement in Education Week, with our partner organizations (a.k.a. Kentucky Collaborative for Families and Schools) in the Kentucky Statewide Family Engagement Center. 

Last week marked one more significant celebration, recognized by our U.S. Congress, and it is the focus of my blog post this month: National Family Service Learning Week.

Graphic with Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith's headshot and a red ribbon in the shape of a heart. The text reads At the Heart of Family Learning with Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith

Developed by NCFL in 2013, Family Service Learning is a research-based learning process in which families identify problems within their own communities and carry out service projects to address them. The projects are researched, co-designed, and implemented by families in their own communities.

On November 14th, Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced a Congressional resolution that designated November 14-18, 2022, as National Family Service Learning Week. This is the 7th consecutive year the week has been recognized, attesting to the value and importance of creating learning opportunities that extend beyond school walls and are grounded in real-life issues of inequity.

Family Service Learning is embedded into NCFL programming as a vehicle for families to explore their strengths and develop or sharpen skills in leadership, advocacy, and employability. Throughout the process, families envision solutions to community issues, conduct root-cause analysis, and establish and sustain new community partnerships. Because projects are driven by challenges that are unique to each community, Family Service Learning can be used to address a variety of issues, large and small.

For the families participating in the student advocate group at Briya Public Charter School in Washington, DC during the height of the pandemic, the issue they worked to address was rooted in the exclusion of workers from receiving unemployment insurance or federal stimulus checks due to eligibility requirements. To spread awareness of the issue and amplify their message, participants utilized #DontExcludeMe and #NoMeExcluyas on social media. They met with their local government leaders and joined forces with a coalition of organizations in the city to advocate for cash assistance. Because of these efforts, the DC City Council allocated $14M to support individuals. Through this project, participants had opportunities to develop workforce skills such as organizing and communicating effectively, as well as technology and language skills.

Parenting adults participating in the Tarrant County (Texas) Activate! Local family leadership program chose to improve challenges regarding pedestrian safety for their school. Participants were concerned for the safety of their children walking to and from school due to the lack of traffic signals and accountability for incautious drivers. The group worked to develop a model process of making the school’s surrounding area safer for pedestrians, with the intention of applying the model to other schools in their district. The photo below shows the group presenting their project to a funder.

A group of participants of Activate! Local are standing in a line at the front of a meeting room. Each holds a traffic sign and one person is speaking.
A group of participants of Activate! Local are standing in a line at the front of a meeting room. Each holds a traffic sign and one person is speaking.

As a result of their project, the group was connected to leaders in their local district who are working to create safer streets. The group plans to continue partnering with the district to hold them accountable and make their voices heard to ensure ongoing safety for their children and others.

My last example comes from Chief Leschi School in Puyallup, Washington. Watch this video to learn how they’ve incorporated Family Service Learning through multiple ways in their family literacy program:

At NCFL, we envision a future where children and families work alongside community partners to address inequities as well as create more equitable decision-making and practices within their communities. Family Service Learning is foundational to NCFL’s model programming because it helps parenting adults to gain literacy, technology, and communication skills while building social capital and deepening their community connections. When parenting adults grow their leadership capacity and become drivers of change in their neighborhoods, communities are elevated by their influence and ultimately thrive. 

Readers interested in joining NCFL’s 60x30 Vision, which involves learning how to incorporate Family Service Learning into their communities, are encouraged to reach out to

Lastly, NCFL is gearing up for our final event of the 2022 Families Learning Conference, held December 2nd in Phoenix, where our staff and community partners will explore what family learning looks like in different pathways and programming. This Friday, November 25th, is the last day to register—we hope to see many NCFL advocates, ambassadors, and champions there!


Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith

A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Having served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy, her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville. 

Follow Dr. Felicia C. Smith on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Related: Service-learning model for families receives Congressional Resolution


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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