The Literacy Lab, a New Community Partner and Grant Recipient

The Junior League of Washington is proud to announce our newest community partner – as well as grant recipient – is The Literacy Lab, a local nonprofit organization devoted to dramatically increasing the reading levels of low-income children in the District of Columbia. Founded in 2009 by a former DC public school teacher, the organization currently serves over 250 students attending 45 public schools in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland.

The Literacy Lab’s mission is to provide high-quality, targeted reading remediation to low-income students in order to increase their literacy skills, leading to increased academic success and greater opportunities in life. Their experience has shown that students will make progress when they are given quality instruction in a consistent and structured manner. By providing individualized reading instruction which targets fundamental skills, The Literacy Lab’s trained volunteers will lead students to higher reading levels and increased confidence, which supports the League’s focus of increasing reading skills in children.

The JLW has awarded $25,000 to The Literacy Lab, allowing them to operate the Ready to Read program at DC General Family Emergency Shelter, the largest of Washington, DC’s government-run family shelters, through weekly Parent-Child Literacy Development Workshops. Ready to Read is a critical reading readiness program for families with toddlers and young children ages 0 – 5. The program will deliver a consistent amount of read aloud and print exposure to high-risk homeless children ages 0 – 5, as well as provide homeless parents with a skill set to read with and engage their children in literacy activities from birth onward. Funds will specifically be used to create a lending library housed at the shelter with reading materials and pre-literacy activities for parents and children to use during the workshop and then to check out afterwards for their use during the week.

The Literacy Lab anticipates approximately 250 parents and children (125 families) will be served over the course of the year though the weekly two hour Parent-Child Literacy Development Workshops. For the first hour, parents will participate in a workshop where they will learn an early literacy skill and practice implementing that skill while their children are participating in a read aloud and related read aloud session. For the second hour, the parents and children will reconvene; a healthy snack will be provided, and then parents and children will go through literacy centers together, allowing the parents the opportunity to practice the skills they learned. At the end of the session, the parents will have the option of checking out books and materials. The goals of the program are to increase parents’ skills and knowledge in the area of early literacy development, to provide a print-rich and engaging environment for young children in order to increase their reading readiness and early literacy skills mastery, and to increase access to high-quality reading materials for families living at the DC General Shelter.

The Literacy Lab will use trained JLW volunteers to help implement the Ready to Read program, providing them with a meaningful, manageable, high-impact opportunity on Saturday mornings. Trained volunteers will run the read aloud sessions with the children, which can include reading a story aloud, asking questions, listening to/singing songs with the children, reviewing basic vocabulary and modeling reading habits. During the second hour, volunteers will run the literacy centers, examples which include rhyming, make-believe dress-up, vocabulary puzzles, sound identification, and letter naming. Finally, volunteers will help monitor the lending library and help parents check out books and manipulatives.

If you would like to receive further information about the 2012-2013 grant process, including notice of the application and deadline information, please contact Alicia Lee, Chair, Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee at

Alicia Lee
Chair, Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee