President and Founder, National Center for Families Learning
Sharon Darling is the president and founder of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). Though she had been a teacher for years, Sharon’s inspiration for developing the formal family literacy movement came in a Kentucky church basement, where she was volunteering to help adults learn to read in 1970. She discovered then that working in a classroom only took students so far if they didn’t have the support of their family. To do something systemic for children’s education, parents had to be involved and engaged. Fast forward to present day, NCFL’s model of dual-generational learning includes children’s education, adult education, parent time, and interactive literacy activities among parents and their children (Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®). Through Sharon’s leadership, the organization has spread this family literacy model to thousands of partner sites across the United States in diverse settings such as community centers, homeless shelters, libraries, and public schools. The family literacy model is culturally sensitive and has thrived no matter what population it served–inner-city families; immigrant families from Latin America, the Middle East, Far East and Africa; American Indians; and indigenous populations from Canada to New Zealand.
Sharon has been well recognized for her contribution in helping millions of families climb out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. Her many awards and recognitions include: the National Humanities Medal awarded by President George W. Bush; the Razor Walker Award from the University of North Carolina; Woman of Distinction Award, Birmingham Southern University; Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, Johns Hopkins University; and the Harold W. McGraw Award for Outstanding National Educator. In addition, she has been featured on the Arts & Entertainment television network’s series, Biography, inducted into the Frederick Douglass Hall of Fame on Capitol Hill, is frequently quoted in the national news, and is featured in education related stories on television. Sharon serves as an advisor on education issues for governors, policy makers, business leaders, and foundations.