Literacy & Justice for All

We read to become who we are meant to be!

A citywide language-centered ecosystem – a vision for the nation.

What is Literacy & Justice for All?

The United Way of Greater Atlanta with support from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, are making an unprecedented investment in establishing Metro Atlanta as a national model for realizing a full-scale language and literacy ecosystem guided by experts at the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School. The investment will create opportunities for equitable access to literacy for young children across Atlanta and Marietta.

Why now?

“The need for this coordinated investment could not be more urgent. After the recent years of disrupted learning that have affected even our youngest learners, on top of our already pervasive illiteracy crisis, we need to finally do what we know how to do,” said Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D., Director, Rollins Center.

Studies show that only 30 percent of Atlanta’s children are reading proficiently by fourth grade. When the data is disaggregated for race, it reveals only 16 percent of Black children are taught to read by that same milestone, with similar statistics for children for whom English is a second language or who are eligible for free and reduced lunch.1

What makes this citywide effort different?

“Beginning in 2021-22 and expanding into the year ahead, the work of language and literacy is being consolidated, and now the science and the funding will be exponentially more effective with this well-woven distribution network,” said Russ Hardin, President, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation.

“The difference between this investment and past initiatives is that this is a coordinated ecosystem of professional learning (leveraging Cox Campus) grounded in evidence-based practices to reach children from the earliest language development in perinatal care through reading in elementary school,” said Dr. Lee-James.

What does this citywide ecosystem look like?

Literacy & Justice for All (LJFA) is a city-wide collaboration that began in Marietta to bring the Science of Reading to every child. Specifically designed to serve as a national model, LJFA includes everyone in a child’s life to address literacy inequities. Since 2018, Grady Hospital has successfully and fully integrated the practices and principles of Talk With Me Baby into their perinatal ecosystem.

Everyone on the staff adopts the practices, and coaches families in their care. This has allowed more than 6,000 babies to leave the hospital with their families knowing the importance of language nutrition to building healthy brains, changing their standard of care. This integration served as the blueprint for Literacy & Justice for All.

The effort has expanded in scale in 2022-23 as Atlanta Public Schools, and their largest charter network, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, ensure that teachers learn, embed and implement with confidence the core practices that work for every child. In addition, PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive, a backbone in early learning, is partnering with the Rollins Center to focus on language and literacy to expand access to professional learning, reaching more than 50 early learning centers and family home care sites. Key partners include Marietta City Schools, Learn4Life, PAACT, Cobb Collaborative, Quality Care for Children, Kennesaw State University, KIPP Metro Atlanta, Wellstar Foundation, Grady Hospital, Atlanta Public Schools, Sheltering Arms and the YMCA of Metro Atlanta.

1. (NAEP, 2019)

Explore Infant – Pre-K Curriculum & Resources
Explore K-3rd Grade Teacher Videos
Events to Explore