Our Mission

Literacy to Liberation


We’ve changed our mission to better reflect our work, purpose, and the children we serve.

CLI believes that systemic change is the only solution to the current social unrest and the only way that the public education system will become equitable for children of color. Below we outline the journey our organization has been on and what precipitated our mission sharpening. 

Our Vision

Children’s Literacy Initiative seeks to dismantle structural racism by providing Black and Latinx children with the anti-racist early literacy instruction, support, and advocacy needed to create equity in education.

We are working towards creating a more equitable education system, one that promotes early literacy, cultural competency, and equitable outcomes for all students, particularly Black and Latinx students who have long been disproportionately isolated from the resources to obtain the education they deserve. CLI believes that literacy is a vital pathway to create lasting social change and foster a just and equitable society.

Literacy, the pathway to liberation >>

Growing within the Organization

The social unrest around racial justice in 2020 added urgency to equity work that CLI had already started. In 2019, CLI engaged outside facilitators to provide racial literacy trainings for staff members and started an extensive review of the book collections it provides to schools.

In June 2020, CLI hired a Director of Equity and Inclusion to help ensure the organization addresses racial inequity and bias in all its programs and operations, including hiring practices and board recruitment. These key efforts helped CLI systematize its anti-racist and culturally sustaining approach to early literacy instruction and teacher professional development and is now central to every aspect of CLI’s work – the stem cell.
Learn more about our mission >>
CLI Annual Report 2022 - Our Vision

Systemic change is the only solution to the current social unrest brought about by social inequities. And systemic change is the only way that the public education system will become equitable for children of color.

Collaborating with School Districts

Over the last two years, CLI has engaged deeply with our school district partners as they too embarked on their own anti-racist journeys. In listening to our partners, we heard marked shifts in how schoolteachers and leaders spoke about the cumulative impacts of racism in public schools and how they articulated the ‘why’ driving the compelling need to adopt anti-racist policies that inform all aspects of district operations - including pedagogical practices.

Leaders in Transforming Early Literacy Research into Practice

CLI has been working with leading early literacy scholar Dr. Gholnescar “Gholdy” Muhammad, director of the Urban Literacy Collaborative and Clinic at Georgia State University, to integrate culturally sustaining pedagogy into its early literacy instructional model. There is fortuitous alignment and leverage given that many of our school district partners have worked with Dr. Muhammad. 

Dr. Muhammad’s scholarship and that of countless others is transforming the way we train pre-service schoolteachers, evaluate teacher performance and child outcomes, and rethink our pedagogical approaches in literacy to account for the cultural identities of students of color.

CLI Annual Report 2022 - Regional Impact

We continue to build relationships with scholars and practitioners of color who add valuable and timely insights that we leverage across all workshop, seminar, and teacher learning content.

Transforming Research into Practice 

For over 30 years, CLI has demonstrated expertise in translating best-in-class early literacy and pedagogy research into effective teacher practice in classrooms. We have drawn upon this competency to create an enriched early literacy instructional model informed by the latest research that exists at the intersections of literacy, racial equity, and anti-racist pedagogical best practice.
See CLI's 35 year history of impact >>

An Ongoing Pursuit

Early literacy pedagogy, as with other academic disciplines and practices, requires us to be dynamic as we grow our understanding of how to meet expanding instructional demands for children.
And though CLI has always approached our work with children with deep cultural competency and equity, we are strengthening our approach with explicit identification of the cumulative impacts of racist policies on schools that serve predominantly Black and Latinx children.
We embrace the notion that the work of an anti-racist early literacy organization is an ongoing pursuit and there is no point at which we ‘arrive’. It is with this understanding that CLI must seek new frontiers of excellence in our anti-racist pedagogical pursuits.
CLI Annual Report 2022 - Regional ImpactCLI Annual Report 2022 - Regional Impact

Make a gift. Empower a child. 

Children deserve the opportunity to achieve their dreams, and learning to read is a critical step in that journey. Help us provide Black and Latinx children the high-quality & culturally sustaining literacy instruction they deserve.

Download the CLI Position Statement

Learn more about our sharpened mission in the Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Early Literacy Instruction and Learning. This report features additional insights on CLI's vision for children and integrated approach to early learning.