Best Practices
October 30, 2013

Literacy Lab Opens Doors in DC

Literacy is essential to a person's success in school, career, and life. Yet according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 66% of fourth graders in the United States are not proficient readers. In Washington, D.C. this number rises to 81%.

How can we tell these ten year-olds, dreaming of becoming doctors, teachers, or police officers, that they don’t have the skills they need to be a productive part of the workforce? We can’t. What we need to tell them instead is that we will make sure they have the basic reading skills they need to live fulfilling lives and participate meaningfully in society and the economy.

The Literacy Lab, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization, is working to close the literacy gap by providing low-income children with direct instruction in reading. Founded in 2009 by Ashley Johnson, a Teach for America corps member with D.C. Public Schools, the organization serves more than 1,000 children a year.

The Literacy Lab is partnering with Target and Minnesota Reading Corps to launch Metro DC Reading Corps, a replication of Minnesota’s highly-effective age three to grade three literacy intervention program. Students from age three to grade three are selected for the program if they are on track to fail the 3rd grade state reading test.

Reading Corps participants receive daily literacy intervention from trained, full-time tutors who are placed in high-need elementary schools. Tutors work with children five days per week, providing data-driven interventions until students reach grade level proficiency in reading.

Students working with The Literacy Lab average 1.5 grade levels of growth in their reading levels after just 42 program hours. By the time they graduate from the program, 80% of students pass the same test they were on track to fail, demonstrating a mastery of the fundamentals of reading.

The benefits of closing the literacy gap and attaining proficiency are profound—if a child is able to read on grade level by third grade, their chances of graduating from high school on time quadruple.

Metro DC Reading Corps provides a unique opportunity to work towards closing the literacy gap in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please contact Tom Dillon, Co-Executive Director of The Literacy Lab, at