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.


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May 5, 2021—United Way of Greater Atlanta, through the support of the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, today announces grants totaling $2,546,000 have been awarded to organizations forming the Literacy and Justice for All collaborative. The Literacy and Justice for All collaborative will serve as a model for the region in addressing inequities that face far too many children and families across Greater Atlanta. Learn4Life will provide coordination for the collaborative with support from United Way of Greater Atlanta.

“As United Way of Greater Atlanta works to put our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential, investing in efforts that improve educational outcomes for children by addressing the factors beyond school that often get in the way of success is critical. When children are not reading by the 3rd grade, it limits their opportunities in school, in work, and in life. They are four times more likely to drop out of high school. If we want an educated, skilled workforce tomorrow and a competitive edge, we must have strong learners today.” says United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Chief Community Impact Officer, Katrina D. Mitchell.

Third-grade reading proficiency is one of six community-level indicators that Learn4Life has identified as the keys to achieving a cradle-to-career vision of success for every child. Executive Director Kenneth Zeff emphasized the role these partnerships can serve to inform the region, “We are energized by the support for collective impact in our region. Marietta City Schools and its partners are responding to the regional need to redouble our efforts to get all students on track following the pandemic.” The Learn4Life network will use this opportunity to support the partners on this learning journey in Marietta and scale best practices across the region.


Ending disparities has been the guidepost for United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Agenda, which has focused on addressing the systemic issues that put Greater Atlanta at the bottom of the list of U.S. cities in terms of opportunity and mobility for low-income children and make a child’s zip code of birth their destiny. For two years running, Bloomberg has called Atlanta “the capital of inequality.”

By August 1, the Literacy and Justice for All collaborative aims to build a comprehensive, cross-sector grant partnership that is designed to effectively reach each child in our communities — from the third trimester of pregnancy through reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade. Each experience matters during the early years of development – the years in which our children must count on us the most. Every child whose life we change will go on to change the lives of countless other children, families and communities. And when we work together — pooling our resources, time and energy — our community impact grows exponentially to create an equitable future for all. Together, with the help of our partners, we can do more.

A full listing of grantees includes:

Learn4Life – to support the collaborative and shared learning for the region.

Rollins Center for Language and Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School  to provide training and professional development in the areas of healthy brain development, language, literacy and the science of reading across the birth – 8 continuum.

Cobb Collaborative – to support early literacy ambassadors and trauma-informed training.

Kennesaw State University – to support professional development within early childhood education settings throughout the city of Marietta.

Marietta City Schools – to support professional development and resources for K-3 classrooms

Quality Care for Children – to support professional development within early childhood education settings throughout the City of Marietta.

About United Way of Greater Atlanta
United Way of Greater Atlanta, the largest United Way in the nation, focuses on ensuring that every child in Greater Atlanta has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. The organization invests in more than 200 programs in 13 counties through the Child Well-Being Impact Fund and works to help children succeed in school, improve financial stability of families, provide affordable and accessible healthcare and end homelessness. For more information, visit