In a February post, we shared effective habits of Toyota Family Teachers of the Year that are detailed in our recent book, Stronger Families, Stronger Communities. This month we explore the first of those habits—putting families at the forefront of everything we do in the classroom. In this post, we'll consider specific recommendations for looking at family as the core of our work, rather than as part of add-on programs or an extra thing to do.
One of the strongest statements about family literacy came from adult education teacher, Cecilia Ramirez, 2001 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year. She said, “Family literacy is more than a program, it’s a value.” Putting that into the context of family, she added, “This value is something we transfer to parents, and parents transfer to their children, because the heart of family literacy is the parent and child working together, with mutual learning for the future, to accomplish their goals. It’s powerful. When we, the teachers, are able to teach a technique or strategy, we transfer the value to the parents, so they can internalize it, and then transfer that skill to their children.”
Honor parents’ experiences and strengths.
This transfer of knowledge and skills from teacher to parent to child is the true essence of family literacy and family learning. However, for this model to work, we must understand and value the families with which we are working. The award teachers remind us that families come to our programs and classrooms with their own strengths. They have vast experiences that they can share with the classroom community.
Remember that parents are experts on their own children—not the teachers or staff in the program.
Another award teacher discussed the false assumptions that educators often have about families. Teachers might assume that parents do not care about their children’s education or that parents are not interested in school. These assumptions are often false. All parents love their children and want what is best for them. Some parents do not believe they can help their children in school. Teachers can help foster a sense of self-efficacy, so parents feel successful as their child’s first teacher.
Treat families like family. Build relationships.
Additionally, award teachers recommended treating their program families like family. They suggested that schools and programs go out of the way to make families feel comfortable when they are present and stay in touch when they are not. Teachers can build relationships with families, which parents and caregivers will in turn value. Teachers can nurture the family as a whole and advocate for families.
Parents and caregivers want a better life for their children and often believe that education is the key. They come to family literacy and family learning programs for that key to a better life—and they rely on teachers to be there for them and to grow with them, every day. As teachers, we must remember to keep families at the center of our work in order to strengthen the families and our communities.
From teacher to teacher—put families in the forefront of everything you do.
What habits do you have for putting families at the forefront of your work? Please share them in the comments below. And if you are interested in learning more from the wisdom of our Toyota Family Teachers of the Year, look for Stronger Families, Stronger Communities in your online bookstore.
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
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, they invested in the organization’s 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 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®.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 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.Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great
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
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.Learn more about the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University