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2019 Families Learning Conference Reflections

3rd December, 2019

Anytime you plan to attend a conference you've never been to before, there is always a feeling of exhilaration mixed with trepidation. You certainly have some idea of what to expect: The exhibitor's row, general sessions with motivational keynote speakers, other attendees with the same eager excitement. And so it was, as I arrived on a crisp November afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the National Center for Families Learning.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary, this conference was not going to be the usual fare. Monday's charge from Dr. Karen Mapp was to think about a six-word story, as popularized by Ernest Hemingway, that defined the conference experience. What followed from that point was a series of breakout sessions of above average-quality and uniqueness. From sponsored sessions that highlighted the work NCFL does in Native American communities through their FACE (Family and Child Education) program, library programs utilizing unique partnerships in an effort to bring underrepresented literacy programs like food literacy and creating family literacy centers in laundromats, and outside-the-box strategies to engage funders by creating open dialog and true partnership instead of staid funder/requestor dynamics, these professional development opportunities afforded me and the hundreds attending the conference access to cutting edge practices that are applicable across all types of literacy programs.

And that is ultimately the message at the heart of the 2019 Families LearningConference: It does not matter what segment of literacy we all dutifully work in (adult education, myself), there is a mandate requiring that we all work together for the betterment of children and their parents. Sharon Darling's work, which started in a small classroom, has bloomed into an internationally renowned and lauded movement through critical collaboration and a simple edict to provide parents the opportunity to learn with their children (PACT Time®). I know that I made wonderful connections with people as close as 50 miles from my program home in Fort Worth, TX all the way to Southern California, Maryland and Alaska. These connections have the potential to lead to creative collaboration, but maybe even more importantly, lead to a feeling of being emboldened in this work.

Six words can tell a story. There were literally hundreds of stories being told at and in the wake of the NCFL Conference once those attendees returned to their homes enlightened and inspired to continue their great works in new ways. "Different programs, coming together, changing lives."

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