This guest blog post is authored by Kendra Smiley, Arizona Statewide Family Engagement Center Director at the National Center for Families Learning.

Before I was an employee at the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), I attended and presented at NCFL’s annual Families Learning Conference. This year, the Conference is being held November 4-6 in Louisville, Kentucky—where it all began 30 years ago for NCFL.

Having experienced the whirlwind of three days of learning and connecting with others in the field, here are my top three tips for making the most of your time at the 2019 Families Learning Conference:

Plan ahead. There are so many amazing sessions being offered from professionals all around the country. Start thinking now about the sessions you want to attend by looking at the schedule at I also would encourage you to strike a balance in choosing sessions that interest you, but also trying sessions with topics that are totally new to you to expand your knowledge.

Step out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of the networking opportunity during the PNC Grow Up Great® Welcome Reception on Monday, Nov. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is a great chance to learn from others and build new relationships. Plus, you can enjoy regional appetizers, bluegrass music, and festive Kentucky-themed activities!

Attend the General Sessions. Each day of Conference includes a General Session, a time when all attendees gather together in the main ballroom. A key part of these sessions is that a parent who has participated in family literacy takes the stage. This is one of the main reasons why someone should attend the Conference–there will be families who will share their personal stories with the audience. Hearing directly from families definitely speaks volumes for the work. Plus, the Opening Session on Nov. 4 kicks off with Dr. Karen Mapp, senior lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the faculty director of the Education Policy and Management Master’s Program. She’ll discuss the Dual Capacity Framework for Family-School Partnerships—you won’t want to miss it!

Attending the Conference really opened my eyes to how truly engaged Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL, is with families. It was so amazing to hear her share stories about the relationships that she continues to have with the families that NCFL has impacted over the years. Come hear for yourself and join our 30-year celebration when you attend the 2019 Families Learning Conference!



As the Statewide Family Engagement Director of Arizona at NCFL, Kendra Smiley works to create a high impact statewide family engagement system that improves academic achievement for disadvantaged students in the Grand Canyon state. She also coordinates the management of ongoing relationships with new and existing partners, leveraging those relationships for collective impact in Read On communities throughout Arizona. Kendra has more than 12 years of experience in literacy program development and instruction. She holds a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from Arizona State University.

Check out her session at the 2019 Families Learning Conference, “Building a Love of Books and Reading for Families” on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 9:45 a.m.