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Jan 31, 2023 |
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When the world shut down in the spring of 2020, Katlyn Rivera, a single mother living in Yuma, Arizona, lost her job and took on the role of teacher for her children. The family endured isolation and hardship, and her oldest son fell behind academically. She joined the family literacy program at O.C. Johnson Elementary School in 2021, only intending to learn more about positive discipline for her son in a six-week class. She said, “When I came to this program I said, ‘I’m just here to learn. I’m not here to make friends.’” What she found, though, was a community of support for her whole family—and it’s why she has continued to come back to engage in learning and gain access to opportunities for her family. The impact of the pandemic is still being felt today by Katlyn and so many other families; its aftermath will continue to pose a challenge if we cannot find deeper ways to partner with families and communities.

While participating in the program, Katlyn learned how to support her son to make gains in reading and learned skills in resume-writing and interviewing. She credits the program for increasing her confidence, as well as her social networks, which led her on a pathway for a new job opportunity.

For Katlyn’s family and so many others, family literacy is an on-ramp to tackle many barriers they face in reaching their educational and economic goals. Families and communities across the nation are still grappling with the devastating impact of the pandemic on learning, health and well-being, and economic prosperity. Current systems of support for children and families are fragmented, misaligned, inequitable, and often inaccessible—particularly to those experiencing poverty or whose voices and ideas have been underrepresented or excluded from conversations focused on improving education and community outcomes.

The challenge is too big for one group or organization to tackle alone. Coordinated and aligned efforts are critical to addressing learning recovery, social-emotional health, and the workforce development of knowledge and skills needed for today’s economy.

The shape of the U.S. with lines zigzagging to different points on the map overlaying a collage of participant photos with the text A Future Design for Equitable Communities

A Future Design for Equitable Communities

Today the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) is launching its 60x30 Vision to establish coordinated and aligned family learning systems in 60 communities by 2030, built with and for families, to increase education and economic outcomes and create more equitable communities.

Family learning systems consist of deep learning opportunities in family literacy, family engagement, and family leadership. These systems of support create relevant, equitable, and accessible learning opportunities; build capacity; strengthen partnerships; and activate family leadership for children and families who are furthest from opportunity. Further, families and communities are intentionally networked for increased learning and impact. To learn more about the family learning systems approach to advancing equity in communities, read NCFL’s new resource.

“NCFL’s 34-year legacy is working in communities, large and small, to support families in making transformational change in their lives through education,” says Dr. Felicia C. Smith, NCFL’s president and CEO. “Over the years, we’ve identified the need to network families and communities to foster authentic and sustainable change. Fulfilling our bold vision brings us closer to achieving equitable communities where children and families feel valued, gain social capital, and thrive in a just and fair society working alongside a collective group of community stakeholders.”

Family Learning Community Collaborative

To strengthen its efforts, galvanize innovation, and create shared accountability and learning opportunities, NCFL has convened a group of reputable and innovative organizations that are committed to bringing resources and assets that advance education attainment and economic prosperity to the 60x30 communities. If deep collaboration is desired within and across communities, that same approach is necessary at a national level. National organizations with meaningful and innovative approaches to support children, families, and communities can accomplish more with shared commitments to advancing a vision for more equitable communities. The inaugural Family Learning Community Collaborative members are Learning Heroes, Partners for Rural Impact, Search Institute, The Equity Lab, TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, Unite for Literacy, and World Education. Each organization is committed to leveraging their specialized expertise through a collaborative spirit to support children, families, and communities.

Apply for a Mini-Grant to Join the Family Learning Community Network

NCFL invites communities to join the 60x30 campaign for advancing family learning systems to support equitable communities for generations to come. Readers ready to embark on this work with NCFL can apply for a mini-grant* to support costs associated with co-designing an innovative approach to building aligned and coordinated family learning systems in your community. Visit to apply today. *This opportunity is currently closed.


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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