Equity and justice through universal literacy
By Ryan Lee-James, Ryan Lee James, Ph.D., CCC SLP, Director of Rollins Center for Language & Literacy Ellyn Cochran, Associate Vice President for Early Learning and Development, United Way of Greater Atlanta
As seen through the United Way’s Child Well-Being Index, literacy rates in our region are unconscionably tied to zip code, race, and ethnicity – keeping equity and justice out of reach for so many. After two disrupted school years, the need has never been greater or the stakes higher.
Our brains are naturally wired to speak; they are not naturally wired to read and write. Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught and engaged from day one. But many caregivers and educators don’t know the science. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.
Through the Strong Learners investment priority area, United Way has partnered with the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy as part of Literacy and Justice for All movement to eradicate illiteracy by investing in the Science of Reading from birth through 3rd grade. Literacy & Justice for All is an initiative to bring the science to children within a community by reaching children through the adults who serve them, prenatal through third grade.
Literacy and Justice for All partners are working to ensure child-facing adults have the knowledge, skills, and agency to implement:
- Healthy brain development in pre-natal care
- Language and literacy best practices in birth through age 5 care
- The science of reading instruction in Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Initially activated in Marietta and now in Atlanta, the work is designed to serve as a role model for towns and communities throughout the region. Anyone can implement the practices through Cox Campus courses and resources – created for child-facing adults of children from prenatal care providers through third-grade reading teachers.
Some partners include Rollins Center for Language & Literacy, Marietta City Schools, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, Learn4Life, Cobb Collaborative, Kennesaw State University, Quality Care for Children, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital and Grady Hospital.
Through these partnerships we continuously monitor, to determine what’s working for whom and under what conditions. Our collective goal is not to “beat the odds” for a small number of children, but to change the odds for every child. Through reading, we become the people we are meant to be – and every child deserves that opportunity so they can experience the equity and justice afforded through universal literacy.