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Feb 27, 2020 |
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"Grit, Grace, and Gratitude: A 30-Year Journeyshares 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.

To order your printed copy of "Grit, Grace, and Gratitude: A 30-Year Journey", click here. To purchase the ebook edition, click here.

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NCFL Partners

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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 $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, they invested in the organization’s 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 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®.

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 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.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

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

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.

Learn more about the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University