National Center for Families Learning

Louisville, KY   |


NCFL works to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families.

Ruling year info


President and Founder

Ms. Sharon Darling

Main address

325 W Main St. Ste 300

Louisville, KY 40202 USA

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Formerly known as

National Center for Family Literacy, Inc.



NTEE code info

Management & Technical Assistance (B02)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (B05)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (B01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Research shows that engaging families in education is critical not only to a child’s success, but to the entire family’s economic and social well-being. The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) promotes family education solutions by engaging families, educators, and advocates to drive results and ultimately reduce education inequities. NCFL’s evidence-based approach to family engagement is driven by research that demonstrates parents and caretakers have the greatest influence on the academic trajectories of their children, and that strong parent-child and parent-school relationships are catalytic to educational progress—particularly for families who are underserved and from diverse backgrounds (Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies, 2007). Our approach builds capacity and transfers knowledge sustained through generations, resulting in compounding returns that help to break the cycle of poverty and build economic self-sufficiency for marginalized populations (Cramer, 2016).

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Professional Development

Training and resources to support professionals and practitioners of family engagement in education through in-person training, webinars/digital resources, online courses, research, and evaluation.

Population(s) Served

In-person or virtual programming to support parents and caregivers in effecting positive change for themselves and their children through the power of education. Programming is of varying length and intensity, centered around NCFL's four-component model: Adult Education, Children's Education, Parent Time, Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Recruitment and activation of local partners and organizations, working collectively to build comprehensive family learning systems.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

The Family and Child Education (FACE) program was initiated in 1990, and currently has programs in 48 Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) communities in 10 states. It was designed as a family literacy program; an integrated model for an early childhood/parental involvement program for American Indian families.

Population(s) Served
Indigenous peoples

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) works to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Partnering with educators, school districts, community-based organizations, libraries, literacy advocates, and policymakers, NCFL develops and provides multigenerational programming, professional development, community development, and digital resources that empower families to recognize their strengths and achieve their goals. Since 1989, we have supported millions of families across the country as they've changed their lives through education, leadership, advocacy, and workforce training. Engaging multiple generations from the same family has been a fundamental and distinguishing aspect of our work, because we know this holistic approach creates a stronger impact and greater success for families. In addition to our community-based programs and professional development systems across the country, our digital properties, like and the National Literacy Directory (, are utilized by millions of families each year.

All of our work is focused on building capacity and creating equitable opportunities for families. This is not done in isolation or through a cookie-cutter approach. What works in one community may not be best in a different location, and it takes a team of local partners and service providers to create the greatest impact. With this in mind, NCFL operates a network of Family Learning Communities, each with different offerings tailored to a location’s unique needs and situations.

Major strategies we utilize are:
MULTI-GENERATIONAL LEARNING: Through partnerships with schools, libraries, community-based organizations, and other programs in communities across the country, parents and caregivers learn alongside their children, both in-person and virtually. We concurrently build the skills of the parents and caregivers as well as empower them with the tools to and confidence to engage in their children's education.

PARENT LEADERSHIP: Parent leadership programs are designed to activate the leadership skills of parenting adults by encouraging them to become engaged advocates for their community and organize to make a powerful, impactful change on education issues.

CROSS-SECTOR COALITIONS: Community coalitions are comprised of organizations and local residents who seek to serve as catalysts for systemic change around issues that most impact family well-being. NCFL supports cross-sector collaborative efforts to meet the goal of building comprehensive family learning systems that are embedded at various levels in a community.

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN EDUCATION: Family engagement programming includes multi-generation learning opportunities, events, activities, and strategies that support children’s academic achievement and sometimes parent education.

CO-DESIGNING: To truly meet the needs of the community for which services or resources are created, we collaborate with community members and key stakeholders to provide input on those services and resources.

FAMILY SERVICE LEARNING: The NCFL Family Service Learning model combines family learning with service learning in an effort to build stronger communities by fostering leadership and advocacy skills for families. Through the NCFL Family Service Learning six-step process, families explore solutions to community issues, conduct root-cause analysis, develop advocacy skills, and solidify and sustain new community partnerships.

LANGUAGE JUSTICE: Rather than just providing interpretation for the non-English speakers, language justice (simultaneous interpretation) encourages participants to speak in the language that best conveys their full ideas and expressions in their preferred language, providing interpretation for everyone, not just the non-English speakers. Language justice allows programs to benefit from the wisdom and experience of community leaders and parents who have in the past experienced language as a barrier to their leadership and voice.

We have a 31-year history of developing and implementing family learning strategies and practices that bring real-world results to families and communities. We meet our goals through the following capabilities:

MODEL PROGRAMMING: NCFL has identified a three-tiered approach to family engagement: Tier 1–Community-wide Family Engagement initiatives; Tier 2–Family Learning model; Tier 3–Place-based Family Literacy. This tiered approach coincides with the intensity and duration of services needed and desired by families and is driven by their family, academic, and community-focused goals. The models within the tiers are designed to make a significant difference for families to achieve economic stability and build their social capital. Built out of three
decades of ground-level work with families, the models are based on evidence, founded in results from third-party evaluations and research projects, and informed by knowledge gained over time by listening to families and observing programs through technical assistance.
The intervention spans community-wide impact to high individual impact for families, defined by the intensity and duration of services provided. It encompasses broad, community-wide initiatives and more targeted interventions through place-based programs.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: NCFL helps family literacy and learning practitioners to authentically engage with families by providing the latest in professional development and best practice expertise. NCFL offers a range of on-site professional development trainings, facilitated online courses, and blended learning opportunities to support family learning and literacy practitioners across family engagement, early childhood education, adult education, and support for English learners.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Community Development involves the recruitment and activation of local partners and organizations, working collectively to build comprehensive family learning systems. Our efforts seek to highlight local voices and support families in creating learning systems that foster an equitable and thriving neighborhood. NCFL promotes leadership through participatory democracy, economic opportunity, social justice, and equity.

DIGITAL RESOURCES: NCFL offers a variety of engaging online resources to support multigenerational learning in the home. An example is award-winning website, which has grown to become one of the most popular education sites in the world, boasting more than 2,000 unique Wonders of the Day® and over 50 million visitors since its debut. With multi-disciplinary content that aligns to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the STEM Educational Quality Framework, and Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, teachers everywhere use Wonderopolis®’s daily Wonders to jumpstart their students' critical thinking. With the 2020 global pandemic, Wonderopolis has experienced significant growth in monthly users as students are learning from home.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education launched a multi-million dollar family engagement initiative to create 13 Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs). NCFL was selected to lead two SFECs, in Arizona and Nebraska, as well as serve as partner on two additional SFECs, Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. Now, NCFL is leading the creation of a national SFEC Network, which regularly convenes all 13 SFECs to form a community of practice that promotes knowledge-sharing through professional development, policy advocacy for family engagement systems in education, and increases public understanding of family engagement across the country through targeted communications.

For 30 years, NCFL has partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to provide intensive, culturally responsive family literacy programs at 49 Bureau-funded schools located in 10 states, serving families in over 20 tribal communities. The FACE program has served over 20,500 families since 1990. Over 48,000 individuals have participated in the program, which includes nearly 26,000 children and over 22,000 adults. Significant results include: Elementary students score higher on reading and math assessments; FACE children with learning differences are better prepared for kindergarten; FACE children significantly increase their language development; and, increased parent engagement in learning., an award-winning website created by NCFL that cultivates student curiosity, added a powerful new tool in 2019—Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. NCFL became the first nonprofit to feature the new technology, which works to expand content accessibility through a variety of reading assistance features. With the help of Immersive Reader, Wonderopolis®’s content is now more accessible for users with visual impairments, reading disabilities, and for English language learners. NCFL also formed a partnership with Microsoft's Flipgrid, a free digital tool that allows teachers to create “grids” in order to facilitate video discussions, is used by millions of students, educators, and families.

In 2020, NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge, which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

As we move forward, NCFL is working to adapt and evolve our in-person programming to the virtual space in order to serve more families.


National Center for Families Learning

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National Center for Families Learning

Board of directors
as of 11/17/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Richard Barr

Sharon Darling

National Center for Families Learning

Meredith Parente

Retired, Brown-Forman Corporation

Richard Barr

Retired, Airline Operations, UPS

Jacquelyn Jackson Fleming, Ed.D.

LifeLearn Associates / Retired, US Department of Education

Vikki Katz

Rutgers University

Mary Wheeler

55,000 Degrees

Christopher Lehman

The Educator Collaborative

E. Susan Gourley, Ph.D.

Retired, Lincoln Public Schools

Nicole Chestang

Chestang and Associates, LLC

Jay Warren

LG&E and KU Energy LLC

Barbara McDaniel

Retired, Toyota Motor North America

Deenie Espinoza

Former Family Literacy Student / Appriss