"Grit, Grace, and Gratitude: A 30-Year Journey" shares how one woman’s desire to teach adults to read turned into a nationwide movement to lift families out of poverty. Published in November 2019, the book shares the formation and evolution of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL).
Throughout this month, NCFL has shared excerpts from "Grit, Grace, and Gratitude." This third and final passage recounts the story of Regina Osteen Lynn. Raised in a dysfunctional household that shattered the lives of her three brothers, Regina instead found family literacy. What followed was a future much different from her past.
For Regina, family literacy was the beginning of hope.
With one brother dead, one in prison, and one dealing with mental illness and addiction, hope was not an easy thing to come by. In Regina’s own words, "my brothers and I navigated through an environment of undiagnosed mental illness, poverty, despair, and abuse." For her, family literacy became the difference. There, she gained access, coping skills, another perspective, and yes, hope.
There were people along the way who helped. An incredible teacher named Mildred Puryear Shelton—who also had dropped out of school and later in life earned a GED® and her teaching credentials—would not let her quit. A woman from Kentucky named Sharon Darling who gave her inspiration. A poet who visited her classroom and helped her see it was okay to be different. And her four young children—especially her youngest son, R.L., her partner in the family literacy program—the source of her motivation.
"...the lesson that Mildred taught me is the difference between a reason and an excuse. I had always lived by excuses. So, once you tear it all down and get to the basics, they are mostly all excuses. Because if you can get in the door of a family literacy program, you’ve got all the support in the world and you can climb to the next level." (Regina Osteen Lynn)
Regina Lynn went on to earn her Bachelor of Social Work from Mars Hill College. She worked in the social work field for several years, in AmeriCorps service, and as a parent educator and parent services coordinator. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush presented her with a National Literacy Honors’ Award at the White House in Washington, DC. Today, Regina’s four children have all developed successful careers.
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
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