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Jan 16, 2019 |
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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 Gay Mohrbacher, Senior Project Manager at WGBH Education.

For at-risk children outside preschool, accessing science activities depends almost entirely on parents—but many parents have limited skills for supporting such learning. PBS station WGBH has recently launched a series of free family apps based on the Emmy Award-winning preschool science series, PEEP and the Big Wide World. The apps were developed to be used jointly by parent and child for a shared learning experience. Available on Google Play and the App Store in both Spanish and English, PEEP Family Science apps cover the topics of shadows, sound, color, and ramps, respectively.

Each app has four weeks’ worth of science activity in daily doses of about 20 minutes, combining a short PEEP video with a hands-on activity, and ideas to take an exploration further. Support for parents is built right into the apps, including videos with moms and kids in their own homes modeling activities and ways to help children learn. The apps also take advantage of a smart phone’s camera to document science play with video and photos for families to reflect on later.

Some educators and parents worry about using technology with young children, so it’s important to note that PEEP follows best practices for using media as outlined by NAEYC, the Fred Rogers Center, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The longest dose of media per day is an 8.5-minute animated story from PEEP. Parent and child are prompted to watch together, and parents are given questions to help a child connect what she’s seeing to what she already knows. Following the video, the parent and child move to an activity that is directly related. These practices represent positive, responsible use of technology.

Research during the apps’ development found families were quite positive about using the technology. They enjoyed the experience, found it motivating, made time for it, and recognized its educational value. Most importantly, parents and children were actively practicing science together—and using strategies like asking questions, sharing ideas, and taking investigations further. They also learned technology can be a real learning tool; one that can actually bring families together in a shared learning experience.


Gay Mohrbacher is the Senior Project Manager at WGBH Education. She coordinates educational outreach to early childhood audiences for the PBS station, WGBH. WGBH is recognized as national leader in producing media-based resources to support learning and teaching. A top priority is service to under-resourced children, and working with national partners and local communities to overcome the barriers to educational success. 

To learn more and download the app, click here.


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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