Literacy Lab was founded by Mialisa T. Bonta as an affiliate of Bring Me A Book. Literacy Lab is a 501(c)3 status.
In 2012, as incoming Executive Director of Bring Me A Book, Mialisa observed two things–first, California and the nation were finally committed to re-investing in early learning opportunities, as policymakers increasingly recognized the critical importance of building a strong learning foundation starting from birth to support school readiness, and, second, that there was a serious opportunity gap for under-resourced and low-income children with a dearth of quality preschools and engaging learning environments available to them.
As an advocate for leveraging technology to address educational inequity, Mialisa, along with the Bring Me A Book Board of Directors decided to explore the idea of developing a technology-based solution to increase book access and interactive reading opportunities for the children and families already served by the organization.
In June 2013, Bring Me A Book was identified as one of twelve organizations across the country to receive a Morgan Stanley Challenge grant, and began work with a dedicated team of Morgan Stanley strategists that focused over 800 hours of pro bono time to develop the Digital4Literacy pilot. The team went on to ultimately win the highly competitive Morgan Stanley Challenge in New York City, coming in first place out of the finalist organizations presenting strategic initiatives. With seed funding from Morgan Stanley, Keypoint Credit Union, and Ush and Ranjini Patel in October 2013, the Digital4Literacy Initiative was piloted in four preschool classrooms across California.
We piloted Digital4Literacy with 96 preschoolers, integrating the offering into classrooms that already had a Bookcase Library on site. We learned a lot about the program–most importantly that our children cherished their tablets, and for many it was a tool that began to be used by the whole family. We learned that parents, when given an interactive reading tool, engaged in literacy activities substantially more than the control group. And, we knew that these preschoolers read over 3,000 books on the tablet after reporting that on average they had fewer than 10 books in their home. Most importantly, children who participated in the Digital4Literacy program, as compared to children receiving other literacy supports in addition to attending preschool, achieved exponential skill-gains, particularly in letter recognition, vocabulary, and number-sense. This pilot intervention directly impacted academic school-readiness.
In June 2014, the Digital4Literacy program won another highly competitive grant challenge, the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge, and with the support of the Google.org team and over 200,000 online voters. was awarded a $500,000 anchor funding and project incubation support from the Google team to scale the Initiative.
Mialisa, along with founding team members Laura Reed and Mizgon Zahir Darby and several Bring Me A Book board members believed that in order to design and deliver a robust intervention to scale, and to have the space to explore the full potential of creating game-changing solutions for early learning, we needed to launch an organization wholly dedicated to offering new ways to support early learning for low-income children. Literacy Lab was born out of the need to revolutionize the way low-income, underserved children experiencing poverty learn.