Language Development and Family Engagement in the Digital Age

A Network-Building Institute for Next Generation Leaders

[Invitation-Only Event]


New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop invite you to a network building and leadership development institute for community leaders, policymakers, and researchers in the fields of family engagement and early literacy who are interested in new approaches for the Digital Age. Partners in this institute include the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting/PBS Ready to Learn, the Early Learning Lab, Erikson Institute, the Migration Policy Institute, Mind in the Making, the National League of Cities, Too Small to Fail and Vroom. Our two keynote speakers for the institute will be Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Faculty Fellow at Temple University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

The Institute is made possible with the generous support of the Joyce Foundation, with learning teams sponsored by the Early Learning Fund and the Grable Foundation.


On the evening of August 2nd, we will have a reception at New America. Breakfast and lunch will be provided on August 3rd. Please let us know about any dietary restrictions when you RSVP.

Agenda and Participant List:

The agenda for the event is here, along with a list of all participants.

Background and Purpose:

Purpose: To identify and mobilize programs and policies that address the needs of families in supporting their children’s language development in the Digital Age; to take advantage of Digital-Age tools and strategies with evidence of promise; and to align and scale up those models that show evidence of empowering families and assisting educators to support language and literacy development.

Why Now? Interest in using new tools and strategies to support families and to activate new supports to promote rich language-learning at home, in informal environments (libraries, museums), and in center- or school-based settings is building across the U.S.  New work in the field of family engagement is shining a light on the need for parents and other family members to be welcomed as equal partners in designing programs and strategies. It is a critical time for community leaders, developers, researchers, and policymakers to gain some focused time to share ideas, learn from failures, analyze successes, and to receive assistance and advice from experts across multiple sectors.  

New Policy Opportunity: The enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act has provided states and localities with an opportunity to reconsider how to encourage better outcomes for children in the areas of language and literacy development. How should they upgrade policies to open doors to these new models? How should they be working with researchers to capture information on what works and why? What funding opportunities are available to bring effective practices to more families?  

A Focus on Sharing and Problem-Solving: At this one-and-a-half-day event, we will bring together experts across sectors--researchers, policymakers, and program designers who work at the community level--as well as teams of colleagues (from communities or states). All attendees are part of new, evidence-based family engagement and education initiatives that capitalize on media and networking tools. All are invited to arrive with a problem they hope to solve or a new opportunity they hope to explore. We will set the stage for on-the-spot problem-solving and network-building through moderated discussions, small group work, and careful pairing of experts with peers across sectors for one-on-one consultancies. We will also share new planning and community engagement tools that our team and others are developing to mobilize partnerships and to scale effective programs.

The Institute will provide guidance and support to states, communities/districts, and early learning organizations as they begin to incorporate the newest technological innovations into their family engagement and early education plans.