Systems Change: Seeking a Broader View of Family Engagement: CTL 20th Anniversary Blog Series

This is one of a series of posts leading up to CTL’s 20th Anniversary forum and celebration, September 9th at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.

By Sharon Darling, President and Founder, National Center for Families Learning (formerly National Center for Family Literacy), Louisville, KY

darling1Thought leaders from multiple sectors have issued a clarion call for public and private education systems to change and adapt in order to foster college and career readiness for both students and adults. An often overlooked strategy to achieve college and career readiness is family engagement that is focused on literacy development across generations.  Meaningful interactions that bring parents and children together to work, play, read, and learn can lead to enhanced language, literacy, emotional, and cognitive development. Additionally, parents who are learning to support their children’s language and literacy developments have the opportunity to enhance their own literacy skills when reading to children.  See article on importance of families reading together:  Pediatricians Stress Family Reading Time.  However, when poll after poll reveals that American students are performing below average in math, reading, and science, and that many adults are failing to reach their full potential as compared to other countries, we’re reminded that it is more important now than ever before that educational strategies prepare students to gain the skills necessary for a prosperous life.

Both educators and parents must realize that family engagement is more than just homework assistance and conferences. Schools and community organizations’ must exhibit an institution-wide dedication to multi-darling2generational change. This includes cultivating a belief within all members of an organization that all parents want what is best for their children. It also means dedicating the time and resources necessary to achieve these ends. Resources include funding, dedicated staff time, and an organizational culture that builds trust between staff, families, and the community.

National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) knows that parent-child interactions are the heart of family literacy services: Reading, Literacy and Your Child.  More than twenty years of experience has proven that engaging more than one generation in learning together positively impacts the entire family, and in turn, the larger community. Research also indicates that the inclusion of more than one generation in education increases the likelihood that college and career readiness will be passed on as a shared value.  Helping families realize their potential and what they can achieve when they work together as a team is the cornerstone of our work at NCFL. We know engagement must be family led, authentic, and built on a two-way exchange of information, mutual trust, and respect between families and the schools and community groups within which they are engaged.  The future of our great nation may depend on our collective ability to build sustainable change that will be passed down to future generations.

darling3NCFL has been a beacon for the creation and implementation of multi-generational family learning opportunities for more than two decades. We are dedicated and determined that change starts within the family, and we look forward to working together to build a stronger community. Please visit or contact us at for partnership and engagement opportunities.

Additional Resources: Creating Culturally Responsive Parent Engagement from the Intercultural Development Research Association and Growing and Sustaining Parent Engagement Toolkit from the Center for the Study of Social Policy

Visit our 20th Anniversary event page for other related blogs and information.

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