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Dec 6, 2018 |
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What are the habits of an effective educator? In the Stronger Families, Stronger Communities blog series, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) has explored this question with the past winners of the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year (TOY) Award. These educators have shared habits that have improved their practice and enriched the lives of the families with whom they work. However, one habit was more than a common practice. Teachers described it as a passion. Reading.

Many of the award-winning teachers talked about their personal love of reading. Katy Kibbey of Michigan (TOY 2008) connected her personal reading to her professional learning. She shared that she uses reading as a way to evolve as a professional and leader. “I read and stay abreast of the field and am always on the lookout for new approaches, ways to adapt and to ultimately do better. I recognize that while my roles and responsibilities have taken me out of the front lines, I still have a unique opportunity to add value to the mission of family literacy.” 

Other teachers were ardent about transferring their love of reading to children. They talked about guiding young children on the path to becoming readers. Karen Klima-Thomas of Arizona (TOY 1997) told us “I read, read, read. I have always read, read, read. There is nothing that will serve a child better than growing a joy of reading.” Similarly, Jody Lintzenich of Tennessee (TOY 2003) appreciates the value in teaching children to read. She believes that it is a way to pay it forward. “Once children can read, they can do anything,” she said. “For example, a little first grader I worked with in class and literacy just graduated from college last year with a degree in special education. She will in turn be teaching children. Inspiring children to be all that they can be is ‘paying it forward’ because they, in turn, will do that for someone else.”

Other teachers moved beyond learning to read and reading to learn. Kay Brown of Louisiana (TOY 2010) focuses her passion for reading on access to books. She is known as the “Louisiana Book Fairy” for her work in distributing millions of books to children and families. She said one of her greatest pleasures is introducing and sharing books with children and their parents. Kay said, “I can see children’s desperation turn to joy.” 

Like Kay, other teachers also acknowledged their belief that reading should be a family affair. Dayle Bailey of North Carolina (TOY 1999) said, “I love, love, love to read, and I tried to pass along this love of reading to my family, my friends, and the families I worked with. I love it when reading becomes a fun, interactive, intergenerational event.”  NCFL’s traditional family literacy programs have capitalized on the indispensable power of intergenerational literacy – of children and their parents enjoying books and literacy-based activities together. 

Reading might be the most powerful habit of all. It is essential to our work as educators. Teachers serve as models. They share their love of books and reading with their students, their families, and their colleagues. At the same time, educators also guide children and adults on the pathway to becoming readers. They also share with families the power of reading together.

From teacher to teacher - read and share your love of books and reading with others.

What are you currently reading? Share titles of books and articles that you are reading for pleasure or for professional learning in the comments below. One person who comments will be selected to receive a copy of NCFL’s book Stronger Families, Stronger Communities.

This blog is the final edition of a yearlong series focused on the habits of past winners of the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award. Visit NCFL’s newly designed website to read the entire Stronger Families, Stronger Communities series.


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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