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Web Conference: Beyond the Library as Classroom: Two-Generation and Family Learning

When we picture a classroom, we imagine students interacting with each other and with their teacher. Libraries, however, go beyond this typical image of a classroom. They extend learning opportunities to parents and families, promote learning between parent and student, and find new spaces in the community—parks, housing complexes, clinics—that bring their resources to where families are.

As part of Library 2.0’s Library as Classroom international online mini-conference, held on June 15, 2016, M. Elena Lopez, associate director of Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP), and Lorette McWilliams, research analyst at HFRP, highlight some of the creative ways libraries encourage and support family engagement. In their presentation, Beyond the Library as Classroom: Two-Generation and Family Learning, the researchers ask: How can libraries open spaces and platforms for all families and children of all ages? What can families learn from being engaged in the library classroom? What types of innovative practices are libraries using to engage families and to respond to their needs? They share early findings from a 2016 national survey of family engagement in public libraries.

(access the recording)




Highlights include:

  • Libraries are strong in helping families promote young children’s learning and development. Findings from the national survey show that 73% of libraries engage families with young children in early literacy programs a few times a week or daily, while 67% of libraries engage families of young children in conversations about age-appropriate books and resources a few times a week or daily.
  • Libraries are beginning to create family engagement pathways from early elementary school through high school, particularly during the summer months. For example, 96% of libraries surveyed reported engaging families of elementary-age children in summer reading programs; 79% said that they offer family engagement opportunities in summer reading programs to middle and high school students.
  • Three action steps for libraries to undertake are:
    • Develop respectful partnerships with families and offer the books, technology, information, guidance, resources, and opportunities for families to be active in their children’s learning and development;
    • Respond to family and community needs and interests; and 
    • Ensure equity by reaching out to all families to guarantee that they can access and utilize library resources effectively. 

You can access the archive of this web conference at any time. To stay informed of future HFRP Interact events, sign up for our mailing list.


This resource is part of the August 2016 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 www.hfrp.org/FINENewsletter. To subscribe to the FINE Newsletter, please visit our subscription center.

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