New Partnership with NCFL Producing Testimony-based Educational Offerings to Support Family Literacy Skills

Tue, 04/12/2022 - 10:26am

Modern day Kentucky and WWII-era Austria may seem worlds apart, but the far-flung locales and distant timeframes came together last month at a series of educational workshops at the Iroquois Branch Library in south Louisville.

Over the course of five weeks, a group of young children and their caregivers gathered each Saturday morning for a special educational series sponsored by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and The Willesden Project, a program of USC Shoah Foundation and Hold On To Your Music Foundation, with support from the Koret Foundation. 

Beginning last year, USC Shoah Foundation and NCFL have been collaborating to develop a wide range of resources that engage children and their families in literacy strategies while building empathy, resilience, and understanding for diverse perspectives and voices.

The Hold On to Your Music family workshop series is inspired by Mona Golabek’s The Children of Willesden Lane books, which share the story of Golabek’s mother, Lisa Jura, a young Austrian Jew who in 1938 escaped from Austria to London on the Kindertransport.  The program, piloted in Louisville, brings together children (ages 6 to 11) and their families to explore historical narratives and audiovisual forms of text as they develop literacy skills and social-emotional capacities.

During each workshop session, children and families engaged with content—including the books, as well as the short animated film Music Dreams, clips of testimony from the Visual History Archive, and other learning activities from The Willesden Project.

Lesly Culp, Director of Education and Outreach (interim) at USC Shoah Foundation, said the themes of resilience, family ties, identity, and artistic expression embodied in The Children of Willesden Lane books are perfectly suited to the family literacy program.

“Mona’s story helps deepen understanding of the historical context surrounding the Holocaust as well as universal themes related to the broader human experience,” Culp said. “We are thrilled to be working with the NCFL and bringing The Children of Willesden Lane story to an ever-wider audience around the country.”

The USC Shoah Foundation/NCFL partnership began in 2021 with an initial phase that focused on production of seven of 15-planned “Wonder[s] of the Day” that are now available on NCFL’s Wonderopolis website. The first of these explored Lisa Jura and Mona Golabek’s passion for music and its ability to unlock the brightest and greatest of dreams, even when facing the most challenging of obstacles.

Welcoming more than one million visitors a month, Wonderopolis offers an extraordinary array of engaging, fun, and educational content that inspires curiosity and imagination. In addition to being featured on the NCFL website, the “Wonders” are distributed to more than 19,000 teachers in the NCFL network.

USC Shoah Foundation and NCFL are working together to expand programming opportunities to additional communities served and supported by NCFL next year.