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Apr 12, 2018 |
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The following is part of a series of guest posts by leaders in the field of literacy. This guest post is by Margaret Caspe, PhD, director of research and professional learning at Global Family Research Project.

NCFL Guest Blogger Series

Tlacolulokos: For the Pride of Your Hometown, The Way of the Elders, and In Memory of the Forgotten. Photo Credit: Jeff McClane

Tlacolulokos: For the Pride of Your Hometown, The Way of the Elders, and In Memory of the Forgotten. Photo Credit: Jeff McClane

What do you think about when you look at this mural?

For a grandmother caring for her 3- and 5-year old grandchildren, it inspires a story about listening to music growing up in Mexico.

For a father and his teenage son, it sparks a funny conversation about the first time the father bought his own pair of sneakers. 

But where are these engaging family conversations taking place, you might ask?

Would you be surprised to learn they were a result of a groundbreaking project at the Los Angeles Central Library?

The mural “Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A.” was produced by and for a community to draw a multigenerational and multicultural audience to share family stories about what it means to be indigenous and migrant in Los Angeles and in Mexico in the 21st century. This is but one example of how public libraries are promoting family learning by building on the interests of their communities.

Over the past two years, my colleagues and I have been exploring the power of libraries as a space for family engagement and family learning. And what we’ve found is extraordinary. Fueled by the digital revolution, libraries are transforming from being passive repositories of information into outward-facing vibrant centers of community life where families with children of all ages can explore their interests together.

To support librarians in designing organized and cohesive family engagement systems we’ve developed Idea book: Libraries for Families in partnership with the Public Library Association—and more recently its digital online companion, the Living Ideabook. Our documentation presents a research-based framework that includes three elements for how libraries can promote family engagement in children’s learning and also support adult learning: leadership, engagement processes, and support services.

Leadership is about creating possibility for family learning and building the organizational capacity to make this happen. Engagement refers to the processes of recruiting families, reinforcing their strengths, and raising their voices to co-create services. Support services is about the collections, digital platforms, and other resources that make family learning meaningful.

We invite you—anyone working with families—to join with other librarians and family learning enthusiasts who have already begun to use the Living Ideabook as a platform to share, connect, and learn from one another.


Margaret Caspe, PhDMargaret Caspe, PhD, is director of research and professional learning at Global Family Research Project. Her work focuses on connecting research, practice, and policy to promote innovative strategies in family engagement.

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NCFL Partners

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 $35 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 and NCFL

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®.

Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website

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.

PNC Grow Up Great

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Visit the Foundation website

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Better World Books

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

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.

Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University