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Nov 17, 2022 |

Creating a community garden; making the route to school safer for pedestrians; organizing donation drives to benefit elderly community members—the common thread that is woven throughout these projects is that they were all carried out by families using a service-learning model developed by the National Center for Families Learning. NCFL is a national nonprofit that supports family success and well-being through education by partnering with communities on initiatives where families develop their literacy and leadership skills.

Family Service Learning is a co-designed, research-based learning process in which families identify problems within their own communities and carry out service projects to address them. Challenges within communities are best solved by those who are closest to and experiencing those issues, and the most impactful solutions are co-designed with and by families. 

On November 14th, Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced a Congressional resolution that designates November 14-18, 2022, as National Family Service Learning Week. For the 7th consecutive year, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have recognized Family Service Learning as a dynamic tool for families to not only work towards meeting their educational and career goals, but also improve the communities in which they live.

Family Service Learning Week, Nov. 14-18, 2022

 “I am proud to once again introduce this resolution formally recognizing Family Service Learning Week and the meaningful impact this model has had on education and community-building throughout our country,” says Rep. Yarmuth. “As my final term in Congress comes to a close, it has been an honor to represent the Louisville-based National Center for Families Learning and help champion the remarkable work they do. Research shows that we can strengthen families and build a better future for all by tackling these issues simultaneously, with a comprehensive approach that helps learners of all ages.”

Family Service Learning was developed in 2013 and continues to serve as a vehicle for families to explore their strengths, develop or sharpen skills in leadership, advocacy, and employability, envision solutions to community issues, conduct root-cause analysis, and establish and sustain new community partnerships. 

Results from an independent evaluation of Family Service Learning have found that Family Service Learning can:

  • Increase formal learning, including content knowledge research and academic skills;
  • Increase technology skills;
  • Increase opportunities to develop work-based skills;
  • Elevate family voice and build social capital through networks of participating adults;
  • Expand self-efficacy and self-confidence.

“For seven straight years Family Service Learning has received Congressional recognition, attesting to the value and importance of creating learning opportunities that extend beyond school walls and are grounded in local challenges and inequities facing communities across the country,” says NCFL’s President and CEO, Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith. “Positive shifts occur across communities when there's a focus on the lived experiences of individuals who have the potential to shape and influence better conditions, policies, and practices for this generation and the next. When parenting adults grow their leadership capacity and become drivers of change in their neighborhoods, communities are elevated by their influence and ultimately thrive.”

Education solutions, such as Family Service Learning, are embedded into NCFL’s research-backed model programming and pathways in family literacy, family engagement, and family leadership. The organization believes that creating a family learning system of these pathways is key to building and supporting a thriving, equitable community. NCFL recently unveiled its 60x30 vision that by 2030, coordinated and aligned Family Learning Systems will be established in 60 communities throughout the country.

Readers interested in joining NCFL’s 60x30 Vision, which involves learning how to incorporate Family Service Learning into their communities, are encouraged to reach out 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.

Foundation Website