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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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FINE Newsletter, Volume VII, Issue 3
Issue Topic: Blended Professional Learning: Preparing and Supporting Educators to Engage Families


Brain Building in Progress
The science is clear: Early nurturing interactions shape the architecture of the brain. But how do you communicate the neuroscience to strengthen early childhood care and education? Learn about the “Brain Building in Progress” campaign—a statewide public-awareness effort in Massachusetts that focuses on the importance of investing time and resources in young children—featured as one of HFRP’s SNAPSHOTS!

Web Chat: Engaging Youth and Families in Afterschool and Summer Learning
Learn the importance of, and best practices for, engaging youth and families in afterschool and summer learning through this archive of a recent web chat with panelists M. Elena Lopez from Harvard Family Research Project; Tara Chklovski from Iridescent; Geobany Rodriguez from Everett Boys & Girls Club; and Deepa Vasudevan and Jessica Fei, doctoral students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

We Need Your Vote!
How do we better engage families in STEM education? How do educators and families partner to create strong STEM communities? These questions are the focus of our proposed panel at the South by Southwest EDU (SXSWEdu) 2016 conference. But we’ll need your help to get there! Public votes play a large role in determining which sessions are selected, and we’re hoping for your support. You can learn more about our panel – submitted in collaboration with Iridescent and Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning –  and vote for it here:


Remake Learning Playbook
A must-read for those looking for ideas and resources for remaking learning in their community! For nearly a decade, a network of educators, funders, academics, and community members in Pittsburgh have been working together to create innovative learning opportunities across schools, museums, libraries, and communities throughout the city. The Remake Learning Network has created a guide that focuses on the structure, strategies, and learned advice of network members. The current edition contains six thematic chapters and a collection of Remake Learning case studies.

Trends Aside, Libraries Support Student Content Creation Now
One of the major trends in education right now is the shift from students being consumers of information to being creators of it. New technology is at the core of this evolution, and in this article from School Library Journal, author Matt Collette explores how libraries are a core component of this trend. Collette reviews how collaborative instruction between librarians and classroom teachers using a variety of digital media is providing students more opportunities to draw real-world connections between the discrete disciplines they learn during structured class time.

The New Normal: Libraries as Partners in 21st Century Learning
Public libraries are fast becoming hubs for 21st-century learning and redefining traditional perceptions of what it means to “hang out” at the library. This webinar recording from Afterschool Alliance is focused on how libraries—in partnership with youth-serving organizations—can be key allies in providing innovative and digitally rich programming for teens and middle school youth. Panelists include representatives from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, the San Francisco Public Library, the Wide Angle Youth Media, and the Digital Youth Network. 


Partners in Time: Building School-Community Models
Are you thinking about forging deeper connections among schools and community groups to provide an array of in- and out-of-school supports for children, youth, and families? If so, then this webinar recording is for you! From Education Week, the webinar features Martin Blank, president of the Institute for Educational Leadership and director of Coalition for Community Schools, and Bolgen Vargas, superintendent of the Rochester city school district, New York, as they guide the viewer through the process of understanding and establishing a community school―from the initial conversations with families and staff to the stage of continuous improvement and expansion. Handouts and slides are available. 

Partnership Launches Emotional Intelligence Resources for Families
GreatSchools—the organization that provides online ratings of schools—has recently announced a new partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Together, the two organizations are producing a series of resources designed to help parents build emotional intelligence and character in their children, including skills such as resilience, confidence, courage, and empathy. This article in Education Week includes a clip from a video series called “Through a Child’s Eyes.”

User's Guide for Road Map Family Engagement Survey: Data Inquiry for Equitable Collaboration
From the Equitable Parent-School Collaboration Research Project at the University of Washington, this user’s guide has been designed to direct practitioners through the process of data inquiry necessary to establish equitable collaboration among families, schools, and communities. Inside the guide you’ll find recommendations for using the Road Map Family Engagement Survey, which was created to help leverage collective impact efforts and to assist practitioners in joining a cycle of continuous improvement around engaging families in education. In addition, the guide includes a copy of the family engagement survey; translated versions will soon be posted on the Equitable Parent-School Collaboration Research Project website.


I Have a Question…What Parents and Caregivers Can Ask and Do to Help Children Thrive at School: A Parent Checklist
The U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with a variety of family engagement partners, has developed a set of key questions parents can ask educators to help them understand if their children are getting an education that will prepare them for success. The checklist also supplies answers to questions about how parents can support their children’s learning and points parents to supplemental resources.

Elevating Quality Rating and Improvement System Communications: How to Improve Outreach to and Engagement with Providers, Parents, Policymakers, and the Public
In this July 2015 publication from Child Trends, authors Frank Walter, Alicia Torres, and August Aldebot-Green examine how states are marketing their quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) and the role communications play in engaging providers, parents, partners, policymakers, and the public in the QRIS process. The report highlights strategies of nine states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin—all at varying levels of implementation, and provides recommendations for other states to encourage information sharing and promote further discussion.

Small Talk Books: Playful Stories to Help Build Early Literacy
Looking for fun, engaging children’s books to boost early childhood literacy? Here’s a helpful place to start! From children’s author Ellen Mayer, the Small Talk Books collection encourages the parent‒child style of back-and-forth conversation that has been proven to accelerate language development. The books tell stories of adults and children experiencing everyday situations together in a way that encourages reader participation and allows parents to embed literacy learning into everyday life. Added bonus: A Spanish/English bilingual edition is coming soon!

Parent Toolkit
As part of NBC News’ Education Nation initiative, a new website called Parent Toolkit offers parents grade-by-grade information and advice regarding child development and parent engagement in children’s academic, social, emotional, and physical growth. Be sure to check out the site for great tips and strategies and to stay up to date on the “School Year Resolution” campaign, designed to help parents be more intentional about their involvement in their children’s education.


Foundation Hosts Parent-Engagement Advocates to Expand Efforts Nationally
In 2012, the Eva Longoria Foundation was launched with the mission of empowering Latinas through education and entrepreneurship. In June, with the support of the foundation, education researchers, practitioners, and advocates gathered to discuss strategies to overcome barriers to families’ engagement in their children’s’ education. Currently, the foundation coordinates a nine-week parent engagement course in Los Angeles through which participation has been correlated to higher high-school-graduation rates for students whose parents attended the course compared to students whose parents did not. With positive outcomes already identified, the Longoria Foundation is committed to expanding parent engagement efforts nationally.

Kansas Family Engagement and Partnership Standards for Early Childhood
The Kansas Family Engagement and Partnership Standards for Early Childhood are designed to promote the implementation of family engagement policies and practices at both the state and local levels. The standards are designed to recognize the importance of families in the early learning years, serve as a guide for appropriate family engagement and partnership practices, and provide support for creating quality interactions and partnerships with families. The standards recognize the role of families as (1) foundation, (2) advocates, (3) communicators, (4) partners, and (5) community members. Each standard outlines who is responsible, what can be done, and how the efforts will help children.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Announces a Set of Rights to Help Parents Seek High-Quality Education for Their Children
This June, in front of an audience of National Parent Teacher Association members, education secretary Arne Duncan announced that to help prepare every student for success in life, families have the right to: free, quality preschool; high, challenging standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school; and an affordable, quality college degree. In his announcement, Secretary Duncan urged that the biggest advocates and enforcers of these standards will be parents themselves, and that the rights are designed to empower parents as partners in their children’s learning.


Dividing Lines: School District Borders in the United States
From the nonprofit EdBuild comes this interactive map that reveals how our current school funding system often bolsters school district boundaries between rich and poor, holding resources in wealthy communities and keeping low-income students from accessing broader opportunities. EdBuild’s mission is to address funding inequities in public education.


Let’s Play: Zero to Three App
Looking to create learning opportunities with the young children in your life anywhere, anytime? If so, then this app is for you! Let’s Play is a parenting app for on-the-go families. From the daily commute to bed and bath time, this app proposes learning opportunities for children from birth to five years of age to engage in while families move through their daily routine. Be sure to read HFRP’s interview with Zero to Three director of parenting resources Rebecca Parlakian, as she discusses the science and inspiration behind the play-based opportunities for learning!

Using Apps to Put Creative Tools into Young Hands
Stuart Dredge from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center has a message for parents: Don’t feel the need to keep your children from televisions and tablets to ensure they develop creativity—just know the right apps and tools to bring creativity development to their technology use. In this blog post, Dredge explains why digital learning can be as, if not more, beneficial than the old crayon-and-paper method for developing creativity. The best part of the post: Dredge uses his own children’s development and his expertise in the field to identify some of the best apps designed to enhance childhood creativity, including Toca Town, Adventure Time Game Wizard, and ScratchJr!

Message from Me
Through a collaboration between the CREATE Lab, the Children's School of Carnegie Mellon University, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, Message from Me provides an opportunity for young children to share with their parents their activities in early learning classrooms through the use of digital cameras, microphones, email, phone messaging, and other technologies. Message from Me was designed around the belief that it is important to provide young children the opportunity to communicate to their parents the crucial language, social, and life skills development that happens while they are out of the home. Message from Me transforms complicated technology to be user-friendly for children to enhance parent‒child communication.

Science in the field of early childhood development continues to point toward the importance of brain-building learning opportunities for young children. In any given interaction with a young child, half a million neurons fire at once. Vroom, a series of tools and materials that leverage daily activities to create brain-building activities anywhere, anytime. As the designers of Vroom say, “the time you have is all you need to be a brain builder!” Be sure to check out the Vroom website and app to explore Brain Building Basics and learning activities such as Flip the Switch and Imagination Station!



This resource is part of the August FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project