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Jun 23, 2017 |

Two-generation family literacy has the power to lift families out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency. That’s the message the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) brought to federal legislators in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 2017. NCFL was joined by Dr. Carol Clymer with the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy, Arlise Ford with Educational Alliance, Inc., (EA), Robert Chiappetta with Toyota, and Norma Aguilar, an adult learner in Toyota Family Learning in a panel discussion attended by government and business leadership. View the full length briefing here. Research shows the NCFL model of family learning – which is currently in 256 sites and more than 100 cities across the country – helps parents build and grow workforce skills that lead to employment or better employment, as well as greater family and community engagement. "Toyota has invested in family literacy for more than two decades,” said Robert Chiappetta, director of government affairs for Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “We do this because education is at the core of a strong workforce pipeline.” [caption id="attachment_10140" align="alignleft" width="225"]Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL[/caption]   “The secret sauce to family literacy is parents and children working and learning together,” said Sharon Darling, NCFL president and founder. “When this happens, the two generations of a family are impacted as well as future generations and we start to see a systemic change.” Studies indicate the mother’s education level is the biggest predictor of a child’s academic success. Family literacy programs, such as the NCFL model, provide opportunities for parents to lift themselves up through academics, language, and workforce-skills building, while also teaching them how to better support and engage in their children’s education which leads to better academic outcomes. Darling – who pioneered family literacy 30 years ago – has seen some 4 million parents and children participating in NCFL programs across the country achieve academic success, as well as economic and civic vitality. The NCFL model is intense: parents and children participate in classes multiple times a week for many months. It includes Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, during which parents and children learn and work together on a variety of things such as homework, Family Service Learning projects, and technology. [caption id="attachment_10139" align="alignright" width="225"]Norma Aguilar, student of Toyota Family Learning Norma Aguilar, student of Toyota Family Learning[/caption] Norma Aguilar is one of those parents. She attends Toyota Family Learning in Plano, Texas – an NCFL model program – with her young son and daughter. Aguilar, who participated on the panel, said she learned the importance of reading with her children to increase their vocabulary and reading comprehension, as well as gained confidence in herself by learning English. Now she plans to find a job and work on an associate’s degree. “Learning English gives me the freedom to achieve my goals and to have more experiences with my children,” said Aguilar. “It is the key to knowledge, power, and freedom in my life.” Aguilar’s not alone in her success; results of an independent evaluation from Penn State University of participants graduating from NCFL Family Learning in 2016 show 94 percent became a better parent. Additional results included:

  • 79 percent improved their English skills
  • 47 percent upgraded skills to keep current job
  • 40 percent got a better job
  • 28 percent obtained the knowledge necessary to pass the U.S. citizenship test
  • 29 percent earned a GED certificate or high school equivalency
Parents participating in the NCFL model family learning programs also become empowered to lead grassroots efforts to impact their neighborhood through Family Service Learning projects. “Programs that provide children and families a future at a full-balanced healthy life are able to impact our communities at-large,” said Arlise Ford, director of social services, EA Early Childhood and Youth Services division, based in Lower Manhattan. “Our two-generation program is built around four primary and integrated components – education, economic supports, social capital, and health and well-being – all of which we believe are critical to creating opportunities for intergenerational success.” Despite positive results across the country, Dr. Carol Clymer, co-director, Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy said there is great need to expand programming. “With an ever-widening achievement gap, it has never been more critical to fund family literacy programs that serve both parents and children to ensure that neither generation is left behind.” [caption id="attachment_10146" align="alignleft" width="300"]Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)[/caption] Congressional Adult Literacy Caucus co-chairs Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) joined the discussion and both iterated the importance of family literacy programs across the country to help people succeed in life. “One of the reasons I have a passion for this is that reading and education changed my life,” Rep. Roe said. Rep. Yarmuth called for continued funding for family literacy programming. “I fully understand how important this is in the lives of our young people and, as well as in our adults who are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.” As funding for education and family literacy initiatives is under threat of being eliminated, it is so important for educators, program staff, and practitioners to continue to share with your legislators the difference family literacy is making in your community. Find contact information for your legislators by visiting


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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