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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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With generous funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Harvard Family Research Project is delighted to partner with the Public Library Association (PLA) on a new project to explore family engagement in children’s learning through libraries. For families, family engagement is about the knowledge, attitudes, values, and behaviors that enable children to be motivated, enthusiastic, and successful learners. For schools and libraries, family engagement means respectful partnerships that offer the information, guidance, and opportunities for families to be active in their children’s learning and development.

This 9-minute video presentation provides background information on family engagement in public libraries!


  • Documentation of promising family engagement practices in public libraries through surveys and site visits;
  • Creation of a learning community, a group of librarians and families who meet regularly to share ideas and practices that set children and families on a pathway to use libraries for lifelong learning; and
  • Development of an IDEABOOK that libraries can use to encourage family participation in children’s learning.


What and Why

Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement --NEW!
Harvard Family Research Project and the Public Library Association call for libraries to join together with schools and community organizations to establish a system of family engagement that extends throughout a child’s life, supports children and families, and prepares children for success.
Family Engagement in Public Libraries Is Valued, but There Is Work to Be Done
Ever wonder what libraries around the country are doing to engage families? Learn the answer to this question and others through HFRP and PLA’s national survey of family engagement in public libraries—– the results of which are presented here.
Family Engagement in Anywhere, Anytime Learning Family Engagement in Anywhere, Anytime Learning
Children spend only 20% of their waking time in formal classroom education, which leaves 80% of their time for exploring and enhancing learning interests outside the classroom. This report highlights the research behind how public libraries, as one of several nonschool supports, are spaces where families can access rich digital and hands-on activities to steer children’s learning and instill in them the love and skills for learning that last a lifetime.
Lessons from Museums and Libraries: Five Ways to Address Families’ Digital Learning Needs Lessons from Museums and Libraries: Five Ways to Address Families’ Digital Learning Needs
Museums and libraries are increasing their offerings for families in support of such vital 21st-century learning skills as problem solving, digital media literacy, and creativity. Learn how these institutions play important roles in addressing our children’s digital learning needs.
  Engage Families for Anywhere, Anytime Learning
Learning extends well beyond the classroom into homes, museums, libraries, and digital learning environments. In this Phi Delta Kappan article, Heather B. Weiss and M. Elena Lopez share their views about re-imagining family engagement as it happens anywhere, anytime children learn. They offer three principles to guide family engagement practices: shared responsibility, connection, and continuity.


Libraries Helping to Close the Opportunity Gap: Maryland Library Partnership
Through innovative and engaging family activities, the Maryland Library Partnership is playing a crucial community role by promoting learning anywhere, anytime, and reaching out to parents to help them with their children’s learning, to improve literacy, and to close the vocabulary gap between learners from low-income backgrounds and their peers.
Something Borrowed, Something New: Libraries as Learning Hubs
Today’s library is a modern, evolving community space of education and support for the entire family. Find out more about how libraries function as spaces of creativity, address educational achievement gaps, respond to families’ and communities’ changing needs, connect people to resources, and serve as education brokers.


Library Leadership for Family Engagement
At the Public Library Association (PLA) 2016 Conference in Denver, Colorado, presenters from Harvard Family Research Project discussed “anywhere, anytime learning” and how public libraries can create family engagement pathways from early childhood through college readiness.
Family Engagement in Public Libraries is Valued, But There is Work to Be Done
At the Americian Library Association (ALA) 2016 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, Margaret Caspe, PhD, senior research analyst, Harvard Family Research Project was joined by Clara Bohrer, director, West Bloomfield Township Public Library and co-chair, PLA Family Engagement Task Force to present findings from a national survey of existing family engagement practices in libraries.
Web Conference: Beyond the Library as Classroom: Two-Generation and Family Learning
How do libraries facilitate family engagement and learning for all families and children of all ages? Watch this recording with M. Elena Lopez and Lorette McWilliams from Harvard Family Research Project at the Library 2.0's Library as Classroom international online mini-conference to find out! 

The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework (download PDF | download PDF en español) and the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family–School Partnerships (download PDF | download PDF en español) are two tools the federal government has developed to provide guidance to the family engagement field.   


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