Our Capabilities

Our Capabilities

NCFL advances literacy and education by developing, implementing, and documenting innovative and promising intergenerational strategies. Below is an overview of the areas in which we focus our work and how you or your organization can get involved:

Stay up-to-date with NCFL's latest initiatives and resources by subscribing to Family Learning Insider, a monthly e-newsletter.


The heart of NCFL's work lies in its dedication to working with community partners to develop model programs and innovative laboratories that advance family literacy. We lead and work with learners, administrators, teachers, librarians, policymakers, philanthropists, and advocates. Here are some of NCFL's current programs that are leading the way:

Toyota literacy and learning programs — Since 1991, the Toyota/NCFL partnership has forged successful programs to promote family literacy and learning for more than 286 family literacy sites in 52 communities and 31 states. The most recent iteration of this partnership, Toyota Family Learning, addresses the multigenerational educational needs of families and promotes long term sustainability for family success through community grants, mobile learning platforms, and a website community that inspires families to learn together. In addition, NCFL and Toyota annually recognize the outstanding efforts of a family literacy educator with the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award.

Family and Child Education — The FACE program serves American Indian families with children from birth to grade three and is supported by the Bureau of Indian Education. Now operating in 44 American Indian schools, this incredible program provides culturally responsive education, resources and support to American Indian parents and children. To date, the FACE program has reached more than 25,000 families.

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NCFL's tools and services can benefit all families. Our primary focus is to empower parents and children living in poverty and struggling with low literacy and language skills to improve their lives and become strong contributors to society.

Here is a sample of NCFL's most-popular educational tools and resources designed to help families, educators, community leaders, and librarians facilitate two-generation learning:

Wonderopolis® is a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Wonderopolis.org is an interactive and free online-learning platform that helps more than 650,000 educators, students, and families cultivate and connect the learning in homes, classrooms, and communities each month. Wonders of the Day® help find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, and within school curriculum and education programs. More than 1,500 Wonders of the Day are archived and searchable on the site.

Camp Wonderopolis™ is the official summer program for Wonderopolis.org. Each June, this virtual campsite provides new inquiry-based content tied to popular summer themes and curious questions.

Renegade Buggies, a free app for iOS and Android, helps parents and children gain financial literacy skills together. The app, developed in partnership with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, was named Instructional Game of the Year (2015) by the Institute for Financial Literacy, received an Association of American Publishers' REVERE Award for "Beyond the Classroom" learning, and was recommended as one of "7 Apps to Teach Your Kids Personal Finance Skills" by U.S. News & World Report.

Healthy Family Habits provides real world ways to establish and hone healthy habits. Available in English and Spanish, this free program includes interactive features such as activity recommendations and recipes. It is also offers resources for community organizations.

National Literacy Directory is designed to help potential students, volunteers, and advocates find local literacy and education programs and high school equivalency testing centers in their areas. The National Literacy Directory contains over 7,000 educational agencies located across the United States. Another component of the directory is a toll-free number that individuals can call to get a local program referral.

Family Trails is a community of families across the globe learning together through adventure. Family Trails believes your family is the best teacher your child will ever have – and the world around you is the ultimate classroom. Powered by familytrails.com and social media—especially Instagram—Family Trails is designed to spark family exploration.

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Building a more literate nation takes a nation of empowered, well-informed educators. NCFL helps family literacy and learning practitioners aid families in need by providing the latest in professional development and best practice expertise.

Training — NCFL continues to offer our expertise to train and empower individuals and organizations to become stronger and more prepared to help families face their challenges. Since 1989, NCFL has trained more than 150,000 family literacy and learning practitioners, educators and volunteers, including

  • Adult and family literacy program managers and instructors
  • Early childhood teachers
  • Head Start teachers and administrators
  • Elementary reading teachers
  • Parent involvement staff
  • Title One teachers and administrators
  • ELL teachers
  • Volunteer tutors
  • Home visitors
  • Librarians
  • Community leaders

Consulting — NCFL offers professional development and consulting services spanning the content areas of two-generation programming, family literacy, adult education, early childhood, elementary education, and ESL. Two recent examples include

  • NCFL's newest collaborative, Say & Play with Words, is a two-year, multi-language initiative supported by the PNC,Skillman and Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundations to reach 150 Detroit parents and 413 young children through direct intervention (family service learning) and close to 2,250 parents (with 6,500 children) through additional outreach.
  • NCFL's partnership with Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) to help early childhood teachers in Louisville, Ky., utilize proven literacy strategies that build parent capacity to engage in joint learning with their children and build critical early literacy skills.

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None of the social or economic challenges we face can be overcome unless all members of our communities have the literacy skills they need. Every community is unique in its characteristics and strengths.

In 2015, NCFL merged with longtime partner Literacy Powerline, a trusted consulting network providing support to local community literacy initiatives throughout the United States. One recent example is Flint, MI, where we are currently supporting the start-up of its community literacy coalition with a specific focus on expanding and integrating family literacy into the community's educational pipeline.

We invite you to email us and ask about the opportunities to increase literacy levels and to build an improved system through community collaboration with NCFL's proven coalition strategies. By working together we leverage your community's knowledge to create innovative solutions tailored to your needs.

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Many of NCFL's initiatives and resources are based on the latest in research conducted by NCFL staff. We are often called upon by the federal government to lend our expertise to high-level research projects that support literacy and learning.

Here are some examples of these acclaimed resources:

From Theory to Outcomes: NCFL's Two-Generation Movement for Families describes the theory of change behind the National Center for Families Learning's (NCFL) signature Family Learning model and links this theory to program outcomes for 15 community partners supported by the Toyota Family Learning initiative. The initiative was created by NCFL to address educational needs and provide opportunities for families—particularly low-income, ethnically-diverse families—to learn in the context of their own communities, using technology, and when on the go. The foundation for this movement is 27 years of experience engaging families through comprehensive two-generation programming.

Family Service Learning Brief — This brief explores NCFL's most recent iteration of PACT Time. FSL is a deliberate two-generation process to engage families in learning together through the development and implementation of a service project. Families build skills and knowledge together, and parents use the opportunity to develop simultaneously as role models and teachers of their children.

Family Engagement Brief — This brief explores some of the evidence supporting approaches to family engagement that are effective methods of improving academic achievement. It also includes an overview of different types of family engagement, including case study examples of promising practices and recommendations for parents, school personnel, program officials, and community members seeking increased family engagement in education. Examples of organizations engaging families included here span public education systems, non-profit organizations, and a public library system.

Developing Early Literacy Report — NCFL's leadership of the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) resulted in a thorough research synthesis of 300 studies on early childhood literacy to determine which critical skills and teaching methods for young children lead to long-term success. NCFL's "What Works" resources are based on the Panel's report and include guides, videos, and posters to help parents and early childhood educators deliver proven language and literacy experiences to young children.

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