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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, 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.

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