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.
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