The Literacy Lab

The Literacy Lab (TLL) was founded in 2009 and provides students–in communities experiencing
racial and/or economic inequities–with evidence-based, culturally responsive literacy instruction as preparation for academic, professional, and personal success. The Literacy Lab serves children from age three through grade three. We partner with school districts to help close the literacy gap largely by embedding full-time, rigorously-trained tutors in early childhood centers and elementary schools. We believe literacy is a human right. When we achieve our mission, we will have created a more just society where all students have the literacy services needed to unlock educational opportunities and success in life.

Our New Vision

At The Literacy Lab, we believe that literacy is a human right and the pathway to liberation. As
the foundation for all learning, engaging in literary acts has the power to uplift people and redress the education debt. Leveraging the Historically Responsive Literacy (HRL) Framework, we will harness the power of students' identities, histories, languages, and cultures to provide equitable access to education, while cultivating the genius that lives within our students and their communities (Muhammad, G. 2020). Within this framework, we seek to evolve our tutorial model into one that leverages the innate expertise and lived experiences of our students and their communities, thus expanding the power of the science of reading, which has been at the core of our work for the past decade. By definition this evolution will be explicitly intersectional to ensure accessibility for all BIPOC students, namely those who are disabled and for whom English is not their home language. Importantly, an integral component of this new approach requires deep, authentic partnerships with communities, from ideation to and through implementation. To do otherwise would perpetuate current inequities and marginalization.

In addition to academic research and research in the intersecting fields that hold our work, we have several years of internal data that have prompted us to ask questions about the ways in which we would like to improve what we do and how we do it. To best support the work happening in schools, we will offer professional development for classroom teachers and teaching assistants to maximize the impact of the model. In addition to offering literacy services to students inside their schools, we will also offer a multi-generational family model to bring back an emphasis on communal education and redress the education debt for the adults who surround and care for the students. As with poverty and all other societally created inequities, illiteracy, in the broadest sense of the term, is systemic and generational.

The Literacy Lab believes that this intentional shift from a tactical solution for an adaptive challenge, to a transformative solution rooted in history and data, aligned with the science of reading, will support our students’ growth and development holistically. In addition to a focus on core literacy skills, we will focus on literary endeavors that cross content lines and support students’ identity development and criticality skills. Further, as this work is multi-generational, families and communities will have the opportunity to engage in literary and academic pursuits
designed by them and for them, thus increasing their skills and competencies.

Our ultimate hope is that someday The Literacy Lab is no longer needed to provide educational
access and opportunity. We hope that this work, done in deep partnership with communities, allows them to reimagine their own path to liberation, with access to everything they need to make that a lived reality.

In addition to the strength of the research-based literacy curriculum for students age 3-3rd grade, TLL has a one-of-a-kind Leading Men Fellowship program. Launched first in the District of Columbia Public Schools in 2016, Leading Men places young men of color, age 18-24 without a college degree, in preschool classrooms and early childcare centers, where they help equip students with fundamental kindergarten-readiness skills. The fellows are recruited through local high schools, colleges, community organizations, and personal networks. They receive rigorous training and coaching in early literacy intervention and social-emotional development. The Fellows commit to working in a pre-K classroom for 25 hours per week (part-time) and are paid a competitive hourly wage. The Fellows receive monthly professional development training across the Fellowship, a monthly transportation and communication stipend and a $2,500 college scholarship. TLL is actively working to build our career pathways for the Fellows to support their entrance into the teaching profession, through innovative programming and powerful strategic partnerships.