The Literacy Cooperative, with generous support from PNC, was very pleased to have Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) to address the community at The City Club of Cleveland on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. This event was an extended celebration of Read Across America Day, observed on March 2nd.

Ms. Darling is a nationally recognized expert in family literacy who described a two-generational (2Gen) approach to literacy where child and care-giver are addressing their literacy needs together on an inter-generational pathway to education and independence. The NCFL works with local partners, shares innovative practices and resources, provides professional development, awards and funding, and advocates federal and state policies to sustain and expand family literacy and engagement services. We were honored to host Ms. Darling at this year’s luncheon.

In addition to her address at The City Club, Ms. Darling was interviewed by Wayne Dawson on Fox 8 News’ Morning Show with The Literacy Cooperative’s Bob Paponetti and appeared on 90.3’s radio program The Sound of Ideas with Dr. JaNice Marshall, The Literacy Cooperative Board Member and Assistant Vice-President of Access & Community Engagement for Cuyahoga Community College’s College Pathways Program. We were happy that Ms. Darling could share her message in a variety of venues. To see video clips of these interviews or to view photos from the luncheon, please click on the links.

A 2Gen approach embraces the entire family and encompasses more than just educational needs. It’s a blend of post-secondary education and employment pathways for adults and educational development and enrichment programs for children, combined with economic supports like access to housing, transportation, and financial literacy.

Likewise, physical health and mental health can be a component of the 2Gen approach since these have a major impact on a family’s ability to thrive, and are a critical factor in the well-being of children and their caregivers. Additionally, social capital is a key feature of the 2Gen approach. Social capital are relationships that empower and support a family. Contact with family and friends, participation in community and faith-based organizations or school and workplace relationships, as well as connection to case managers or career coaches can build a family’s social capital.

When education needs are addressed for adult and child simultaneously, with economic, health, and social supports integrated into the spectrum of services, families have better outcomes that are long-lasting.

There are different models of how to accomplish a 2Gen approach. Some have a primary focus on either the child or the adult, with additional services. Others have an integrated system or network. The challenge is for services to align, share data and evaluation tools, and to collaborate meaningfully so that families can advance themselves and realize their full potential.

There is an emerging body of research and findings that is available about the 2Gen approach. To learn more about it you can visit Aspen Institute’s Ascend Program and Annie E. Casey Foundation to access many of their resources.

#2GenCLE: Bringing a 2Gen approach to literacy to Northeast Ohio

While the 2 Generation approach to literacy has gained positive traction in recent years, many as of yet have not been introduced to this concept that is successfully changing the way families are served in communities across the nation. On Friday, May 11th, The Literacy Cooperative will be bringing 2Gen to Cleveland by hosting the 2Gen Literacy Summit, where we will explore family learning and service-learning models first introduced at our Read Across America Luncheon on March 7th by Sharon Darling, President and Founder of the National Center for Families Learning.

So what does 2Gen mean exactly? 2Gen aligns and coordinates services for children, parents, and caregivers. Because research continually shows that a parent’s education level dramatically affects the educational success of their children, 2Gen understands that early childhood and adult education are intertwined in the life of a family, and therefore need to be addressed simultaneously in a matter that includes the family as a whole. While traditional program models have generally treated early learning and adult literacy as separate issues, they have provided a somewhat fragmented solution to literacy improvement for families. The 2Gen approach considers the needs of adults and children in their lives together. It designs and delivers services that support improved economic, educational, health, and social outcomes on an integrated, inter-generational pathway.

According to the National Center for Families Learning, 2Gen empowers families to work, play, read, and learn together and as individuals. Parents develop simultaneously as learners, educational role models, and teachers of their children, while children experience positive gains in language, literacy, emotional, and cognitive development. In other words, when families learn together, learning becomes a shared activity that builds excitement around education in both children and parents. As parents gain literacy skills, their confidence in their own skills grows and becomes evident to their children. Likewise, as children watch their parents engage in education, they are inspired to do the same and to view learning as a positive activity that they can share with the adults in their lives. As a result, literacy becomes not only beneficial to each individual, but a bonding experience for families with lasting effects.

Many organizations nationally are currently providing learning programs for the entire family. An example of this might be a program where adults work on obtaining their GED while their children participate in age-appropriate learning activities in the same location, or an event where adults and children work on learning skills together. A model such as this eliminates the worry over childcare for adult learners who previously experienced this as a barrier to continuing education. It also provides added benefits to children as their parents learn skills to improve the economic well-being of the family. According to the National Center for Families Learning, there are a few key components to a 2Gen family literacy service. These include:

  • Interactive literacy activities between parents and children
  • Training for parents regarding how to be the primary teacher for their children and full partners in the education of their children
  • Parent literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency
  • An age-appropriate education to prepare children for success in school and life experiences

The Literacy Cooperative is committed to spreading the 2Gen approach throughout Greater Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, and invites you and your organization to participate in a day of discussion that will introduce the key components of a 2Gen approach and showcase local organizations that are integrating 2Gen into their programs. We will build connections, and solicit input for a 2Gen Call to Action. We hope you can join us for this exciting event that will feature Dr. Jeri Levesque of the Center of Effort LLC as the keynote speaker. Dr. Levesque evaluates family learning programs in Detroit and Flint Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri. We will feature Lynn McGregor of the National Center for Families Learning as our lunchtime speaker. Lynn was one of the key planners of the 2Gen work that started in Detroit, Michigan. Our expert panels include representatives from Invest in Children, Ohio Means Jobs Cleveland-Cuyahoga Count, The Centers, University Settlement, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Family Connections, Slavic Village P-16, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Literacy in the HOOD.