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Jun 1, 2021 |
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This year, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) celebrate 30 years of service and learning in the Family and Child Education (FACE) program. FACE, a program funded by the BIE, supports American Indian families and exists today across 48 programs in 10 states. Over the past 30 years, the family literacy program has engaged over 52,000 American Indians, including 24,000 adults and 19,000 children from approximately 23,000 families.

How did it all start? Thirty years ago, William (Bill) Mehojah, the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at the time, identified the need for quality preschool and parent engagement programs. He met with Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL, who shared success stories of parents and children attending family literacy programs in Kentucky. Darling explained the important connection between families learning together and educational achievement. Mehojah recognized that to impact the educational attainment of American Indian children, programs must bridge the gap in learning and enhance the educational achievement of parents and primary caregivers. 

"It dawned on me that there were so many similarities between what was going on with families in Appalachia and what was happening with families in Indian communities." – William Mehojah (Grit, Grace, & Gratitude: A 30-Year Journey, 2019)

Mehojah and Darling then met with Mildred Winters, the founder of Parents as Teachers National Center (PATNC), to explore PATNC’s existing programming for children from birth to grade three. Through their collaboration, the Family and Child Education (FACE) program was born.

FACE was designed to provide culturally and linguistically responsive education, resources, and support for American Indian families with children from birth to grade three. It provides a comprehensive early childhood family literacy program that includes home visiting, preschool education, adult education, and intensive parent engagement.

The goals of the FACE program are to:

  • Support parents and primary caregivers in their role as their child's first and most influential teacher.
  • Strengthen family-school-community connections.
  • Increase parent and primary caregiver participation in their child's learning and expectations for academic achievement.
  • Support and celebrate the unique cultural and linguistic diversity of each American Indian community served by the program.
  • Promote school readiness and lifelong learning.

Consistent outcomes over the years include:

  • Higher reading and math scores in elementary school.
  • Significantly increased parent engagement in children’s learning.
  • Children with learning differences are better prepared for kindergarten.
  • Children significantly increase language development.
  • Increased parent self-efficacy, education, and employment.

This year, despite the extraordinary circumstances facing schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FACE sites have risen to the challenge, continuing to provide support for the families as well as preschool and adult education classes. By connecting through technology, at-home learning packets, and even meeting in cars in a parking lot, FACE sites used resources available to continue to provide services.

NCFL honors 30 years of FACE families and teachers working together toward success. We also celebrate the 30-year partnerships with the Bureau of Indian Education and Parents as Teachers National Center.

Congratulations, FACE! We look forward to another 30 years of strong programming through the efforts and leadership of all who work and serve families in the Family and Child Education program.

Read more from FACE participants over the years:

FACE program

Tohajiilee FACE program

Our Face Family

My journey at the Salt River FACE program

Thank you, FACE

Learning through FACE

Two decades of the FACE program

Click here to listen to Bill Mehojah, former director of the Bureau of Indian Education, discuss the FACE program's origins.


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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