This week the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) held their 30th annual convention here in Louisville, Ky. NCFL is an organization that focuses on multi-generational learning for promoting literacy, mathematics and much more, since it expanded its areas of service after rebranding from the original National Center for Family Literacy.
NCFL has projects operating in nearly 40 states and online (like Wonderopolis!), and is clearly national in more than name. The organization was the brainchild of its founder, Sharon Darling, who saw long before most of us, that inter-generational learning is a powerful force for supporting learning, particularly for at-risk children and their families.
The NCFL conference offerings are as diverse as the families and professionals they serve. A quick look at one day’s schedule of meetings (Click images to enlarge them) offers color coded engagements representing their seven focus areas. It is clearly educational; offering such a universe of choices that faculties attending together carefully plan to have an attendee in every session who then reports back to the group after the party is over.
Like a large family, racially and culturally diverse NCFL members gathered at their opening day reception to celebrate the promise of new opportunities for extending their impact. The huge ballroom was full of conversation, music, food and drink, a photo booth, and a Derby Hat creation area (this is the Kentucky Derby’s hometown after all).
As I arrived at the reception, I encountered a full-size plastic horse attended by a very real man in a black velvet riding helmet, scarlet coat and jodhpurs carrying a trumpet with an extended bell for calling horses to the starting gate at the local Churchill Downs race course. The reception was generously staffed and supplied with goodies by PNC Bank, one of many, big name and proud-to-be, long-term sponsors of the important work of NCFL and its members.
The throng of attendees is far and away majority female, though men could be seen in every direction I looked. Given its commitment to at-risk populations, the gathering was highly diverse, including Native Americans and bilingual educators who serve in projects stretching from busy inner cities to remote rural and reservation sites. While a talented band played everything from bluegrass to jazz, participants enjoyed conversation and laughter about each of their day’s experiences.
This fulfilling event is a celebration and an invitation to conceive of education and learning as powerful and flourishing well beyond the walls of K-12 schools. Families in communities served by the attendant professionals and volunteers are offered choices and opportunities that could rightly serve every citizen and eclipse age-based thinking about how communities provide and support lifelong learning.
As one of NCFL’s biggest fans, I encourage readers to explore the depth and breadth of the organization’s website and, when possible, to pursue relationships with your local NCFL programs, initiatives and personnel.