We believe that literacy is a human right.

We believe that all children deserve to learn how to read and that literacy is a human right. We reflect the urgency of this issue in our mission and core values.

Our Mission

The Literacy Lab provides students–in communities experiencing racial and/or economic inequities–with evidence-based, culturally responsive literacy instruction as preparation for academic, professional, and personal success.

The Literacy Lab serves children from age three through grade three. We partner with school districts to help close the literacy gap largely by embedding full-time, rigorously-trained tutors in early childhood centers and elementary schools.

Our Vision

We believe literacy is a human right. When we achieve our mission, we will have created a more just society where all students have the literacy services needed to unlock educational opportunities and success in life.


The Literacy Lab was co-founded by Tom Dillon and Ashley Johnson in 2009 in response to the challenges that Ashley saw in her own classroom as a high school special education teacher for District of Columbia Public Schools. The Literacy Lab began by offering after-school reading tutoring to children in Washington, DC and Alexandria, VA. In 2012 The Literacy Lab was selected as a national replication partner for the Reading Corps model. Through this partnership, The Literacy Lab has dramatically increased its reach by implementing a sustainable, research- and evidence-based early literacy intervention model in partnership with school districts.

Core Values

We believe that all children deserve to learn how to read and that literacy is a human right. We reflect the urgency of this issue by operating with the following core values:

Equity through Impact and Impact through Equity

Achieving our desired impact for students, school, and communities is deeply and directly linked to equity and anti-racism. This drives us to infuse equitable and anti-racist practices into what we do and how we do it, regarding our service to people, schools, and communities.

People First

People are not just part of our organization; people are our organization—we must focus on their humanity. This drives us to best serve, support, and prioritize our students, staff, Tutors, Fellows, and families, understanding and attending to their needs, hopes, and dreams as people. 

Lifelong Learning

We must center and prioritize our learning and development as individuals and as a collective. This drives us to use data, research, and feedback to assess and revise our policies and practices continuously. We will be bold and humble as we learn from and with students, school partners, Tutors, Fellows, one another, and other stakeholders.

Both/And Mindset

To honor our internal and external commitments, we must employ a both/and mindset. This drives us to reject binary, either/or thinking and decision-making and lean in to creative both/and thinking and execution. We will be disciplined and adaptive, systematic and creative, inclusive and decisive. 

Intentional Resource Stewardship

We must be fully and broadly sustainable to achieve our desired impact for those we serve. This drives us to create and maintain sustainable, engaging roles for staff, Tutors, and Fellows and to be diligent and thoughtful in how we generate and allocate our financial and other resources.

Give your best to those who need it most.

Make a difference for a child.
Apply to become a Literacy Lab tutor today!