At the Heart of Family Learning: A year in review

Greetings to our community of families, practitioners, friends, and advocates. As 2022 comes to a close, I am reflecting on my travels across the country to meet with community partners and see family learning in action and the work that NCFL has done this year to advance more equitable opportunities for families.

Graphic with Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith's headshot and a red ribbon in the shape of a heart. The text reads At the Heart of Family Learning with Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith

In conversations I’ve had with civic leaders, partners, and parents in the communities I have visited, I’ve heard how the work that NCFL is doing is changing lives.

I am amazed by the incredible partnerships that our team has built with local partners through our Statewide Family Engagement Centers in Arizona and Nebraska, and as collaborative partners for the Centers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. I am inspired by mothers attending family literacy classes in Arizona who said that the program has given them the confidence and networks to seek out new job opportunities and engage in their children’s education. And I’m encouraged to learn that six of nine Kentucky schools in which we provide coaching in family engagement practices have become certified Family Friendly Schools through the Kentucky Collaborative for Families and Schools, Kentucky’s Statewide Family Engagement Center. Two more schools are expected to be certified this school year! The hard work of practitioners and community leaders is making an impact and we’re proud to be a part of these engagement efforts co-designing alongside parenting adults and families.

I’m grateful for our longstanding engagement with the Bureau of Indian Education in support of Indigenous communities, which has taught us the importance of designing programming with respect to culture, equity, and lived experiences. Recently, I had the chance to connect with many leaders of FACE during this year’s regional training meetings in Albuquerque. This week-long professional learning experience is a strong example of a learning community—one that shares successes and challenges in order to move work forward. The focus on culture, language, and literacy across our FACE communities continues to provide us with opportunities to explore ways to co-design for future generations, preserving the rich diversity of people, place, and their contributions.

I have observed how NCFL’s family leadership programming is supporting families to take action in their child’s school and community. Families are learning how to apply their skills in new ways. A comment from one family leadership participant has stuck with me, “I was so nervous to get up in front of the whole group of parents and lead a section of the session but after doing so I have the confidence now to speak more in more public places like at my church and in my Family Literacy program.” This type of confidence creates new opportunities and new pathways for engaging more deeply. In equitable communities, each person can contribute, share ideas, and use their voice for improving education and community outcomes.

I am deeply committed to expanding NCFL’s footprint by building on our legacy work and charting our course for the future. We’ll continue to scale and spread education programs and solutions with families. However, we know the importance of applying a systems approach to advancing outcomes in communities; systemic efforts yield more opportunities for accessing learning experiences that are linked together rather than by providing isolated experiences. We’ve heard from the NCFL community that children, parents and families desire comprehensive systems of support for learning, those that are aligned and coordinated for engagement. 

In my monthly blog posts this year, I have revealed our vision to establish coordinated and aligned family learning systems in 60 communities by 2030, built with and for families, to increase education and economic outcomes and create more equitable communities.

We invite you to join us on our 60×30 campaign for advancing family learning systems to support equitable communities for generations to come! If you are part of a community that is ready to embark on this work with us, please reach out to

NCFL’s mission to eradicate poverty through education solutions with and for families is more important today than ever before. I hope you can sense my excitement and plan to join us on this endeavor!


Dr. Felicia Cumings Smith

A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Having served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy, her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville. 

Follow Dr. Felicia C. Smith on Twitter and LinkedIn.