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Jul 31, 2018 |
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The following is part of a series of guest posts by leaders in the field of literacy and family learning. This guest post is by Dr. Sharroky Hollie, executive director of The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, and keynote speaker at the upcoming 2018 Families Learning Conference.


How frequently do you acknowledge your students' cultural behaviors in a meaningful, sincere, and authentic way? Or more pointedly, how often do you validate and affirm your students culturally and linguistically? To do so means that you tell them as often as you can, how you appreciate, love, are grateful for, honor, relate, and respect who they are. It means that you relate to them differently, always coming from a position of understanding, sensitivity, and empathy. It means that in your lesson planning, you intend to validate and affirm with purpose (skillset).

When I am doing classroom observations, I only hear words like appreciate, love, grateful, or honor when teachers are reinforcing school culture behaviors, such as "I love how Tammy is doing her work quietly” or “I appreciate David for waiting his turn.” Rarely, do I hear teachers use validating and affirming language around specific cultural behaviors. The goal of cultural and linguistic responsiveness (CLR) is to move you along the continuum of a negative, punitive, deficit continuum to a position of validating and affirming as much as possible. Where are you along the continuum? When are you your best at validating and affirming?

Hollie blog graphic

What prevents most teachers from a positive plus vibe is simple lack of awareness about the cultural behaviors of their students. They are not looking at their students through a cultural lens or in a way that will allow them to even see the behaviors as cultural.

Our students come to us with an array of behaviors based on many factors, which I called the rings of culture, and as it applies to home culture, the iceberg concept of culture. We have studied the most common behaviors to occur in the teaching-learning milieu, such as social interactions, contextual conversation patterns, communality, collaboration, movement, non-verbal patterns, as well as, eye contact, proximity, and tone of voice. Your students come with these behaviors intact, pure, and unapologetic. Are you recognizing them?


Hollie headshot 2Dr. Sharroky Hollie, executive director, The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, will be the opening keynote speaker at the 2018 Families Learning Conference. For more information about his session and the conference go to


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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

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