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May 30, 2018 |
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Traditionally, summer has been seen as a carefree time for students. Nostalgic images of children playing in their neighborhoods until their parents call them home at dusk might come to mind. But the result of this easygoing attitude toward summer has often been “summer slide;” many children lose academic ground while they are away from school. In recent years, there has been an effort to reframe summer as a time for learning. NCFL Education Solutions Educators can impact how families approach summer. They can help families practice academic skills to minimize summer learning loss. Similarly, they can support families in taking advantage of low-cost and free opportunities in the community, which can build students’ background knowledge. Below are some techniques from seasoned educators for encouraging Summer Learning:

  • Introduce families to Family Trails. Encourage families to look for adventures in their local communities: a walk in the park, time spent at a community garden, or a visit to a historical site. Family Trails focuses on learning through experiences. It also provides free resources for families to use in exploring the outdoors together.
  • Become a summer pen pal! Provide families with self-addressed stamped envelopes so that students can write to you throughout the summer. It provides students with an audience as well as an authentic purpose for writing and drawing. And what is more encouraging than opening your mailbox over the summer to find stories and letters from some of your biggest fans? Take the time to write back. (If you are traveling, pick up extra postcards to send to students.) Keep your families connected to your school or program.
  • Encourage families to create accounts on Endless Bookshelf. Families can set goals and track their summer reading using the Reading Challenge section of the site. Early readers can read free ebooks. Young people can also set up and join virtual book clubs so that they have opportunities to discuss what they are reading. These clubs are a great way to motivate tweens (children ages 8 to 12 years old) to participate in summer reading.
  • Host an end-of-the-year family workshop focused on simple games that families can play to review academic skills. Consider games that students have played in class, such as dice games in math or card games with questions for reading. Encourage families to make and take the materials necessary to play the games at home.
  • Reach out during the summer. Families appreciate reminders and encouragement even when school is not in session. Use your normal methods of communication, such as apps, websites, emails, and recorded phone calls, to offer weekly ideas for community events or at-home learning activities.
Teachers, adult educators, caregivers, and family learning staff all dedicate a great deal of time to families during the school year. Families also need support as they gear up for summer. Little nudges from trusted educators can be the difference between families disengaging from learning for eight weeks and families engaging in new ways. Do you have something that you use to engage families during the summer? Share ideas or links to sites you recommend in the comments below to help our community of practitioners build up their toolkit of summer learning activities.


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NCFL Partners

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 $35 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