Parent Power: NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Learn about Transformative Family Engagement

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After two years of meeting on Zoom, NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) community leaders came together in-person for their annual meeting. Partners from ten community collaboratives traveled across the state to advance their knowledge about engaging families and communities of color in their work to support children’s literacy; gain a better understanding of each other’s work; and build relationships. Those leading the NC CGLR collaboratives range from county libraries; a school system; local Smart Start affiliates; and a university-based group. 

The day’s main session, Supporting Early Literacy through Meaningful and Impactful Family and Community Engagement, was led by the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) of Charlotte, an affiliate of the national BCDI. The workshop focused on authentic family engagement as modeled in their Family Empowerment Program. 

BCDI-Charlotte President Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt, her team and NC CGLR collaborative leaders explored the critical role of families and communities in child development, that must be valued if we are to achieve positive outcomes for every child. She noted that many families, particularly families and communities of color, are often undervalued or ignored, and if we listen first; leverage their expertise and lived experiences; and celebrate the genius in each child, we can better serve and support young children in meeting their literacy goals.

Workshop participants developed their understanding of how strength-based, culturally relevant, evidence-based and trauma-informed engagement of parents and caregivers yields the strongest results. By recognizing that parents know what is best for their children, we can be most responsive to what they want and what they need. 

Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt, BCDI-Charlotte President, addressed the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading annual meeting attendees. Photo: Lindsay K. Saunders

“Out in communities, we need to massage the system to do something different so that we are sharing power with our families. And we are building meaningful and impactful relationships,” said Govan-Hunt “And we’re convincing people to do something different because they [parents] see something different.”

“We are building tables to bring families up to tell us – ‘What is it that you want, what is it that you need for your children? How can I serve you?’” Govan-Hunt continued. 

NC CGLR communities reflected on their own work and how they could better lift up parent power. One participant shared: I really loved hearing from BCDI. Very impactful. Will be working to include parent voice in our planning work.” 

In the afternoon session, attendees worked in small groups, focusing on sharing and learning strategies for successful literacy programs such as: book access and distribution strategies, collaboration with school and community partners, kindergarten readiness outreach and programming, and tutoring and summer learning programs.  

A small group meets at the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Meeting, Photo: Lindsay K. Saunders
A small group meets at the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Meeting, Photo: Lindsay K. Saunders

Another participant spoke about the value of the meeting: “It was engaging and informative. The presentation and small group discussions have provided me with goals and opportunities to work on as we move forward.” 

Amy Franks (Left) and Lisa Lambert (Right) participate in the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading annual meeting. Photo: Lisa Finaldi

It was an exciting day to reconnect with so many familiar and new faces for a meeting that lasted most of the day, energizing all the dedicated advocates, community members, and program leaders, and more to come together solely focused on success for third grade reading. 

Dr. Govan-Hunt shared this Sankofa proverb that in many ways summarized the day of learning and sharing: “Children of the village are the rewards to the lives of all villagers.”  

Since 2015, the NC Early Childhood Foundation has been the state lead for the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Thirteen NC community collaboratives are part of the network, working to create diverse and inclusive communities that grow thriving readers, beginning at birth and continuing through third grade, so each child is prepared for success. Read more about the NC Campaign for Grade Level Reading here.