Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute is celebrating six years of making an impact in the community. We seek to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach. The challenges we address are promoting reading and increasing diversity in books. Our team chose to take on these issues based on our passion for dismantling the pipeline to prison. This is of critical importance due to the connection between illiteracy and future incarceration, and the overrepresentation of communities of color in the criminal justice system.
According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure. Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level.” Students who are not proficient in reading are 4 times more likely to drop out of school and dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested during their lifetime. Eighty-five percent of children in the juvenile justice system are not literate.
Minnesota’s children face racial disparities in nearly every quality-of-life indicator which includes poverty, health, and literacy. According to the Minnesota Department of Education’s 2021 data, roughly 48% of Minnesota third-grade students are proficient in reading; however, a mere 32% of Black third-graders met the reading standards in comparison with 57% of White children. Our goal is to create new pipelines to success by improving literacy rates in Minnesota and inspiring the next generation of leaders.
Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute’s success is made possible through the support of the community. We recognize ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact. Thanks to you we have been able to do that by donating over 10,000 books to children, inspiring over 5,000 children with visits to schools, and providing virtual readings to 30,000 participants. This provides the opportunity to create both mirrors and windows. “Mirrors” provide an opportunity for children of color to see themselves positively represented on the pages of a book. There is a sense of urgency for action when you are more likely to see a book with a black dog or black bear on the cover than a book with a Black girl or Black boy.
Our Planting People Growing Justice books are filling this void by celebrating inclusion. A father described his daughter embracing our Justice Makes a Difference book and declaring: “Daddy, that’s me!” A teacher shared: “With pictures of relatable faces, our students engage more in reading, and it has also improved their self-esteem to see themselves in books. They feel like they do belong.” This is the transformative power of representation and inclusion within children’s books. We are also creating “windows” for all children to embrace the rich multicultural tapestry of our world. One teacher shared: “PPGJ books push our scholars to learn and dream more.” Another teacher embraced the message of Leaders are Readers™ and stated: “The leadership lesson students learned was that no matter what, they can do anything.”
Our annual community event is an opportunity to inspire leadership in our youth. It will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. It will take place 2–3 p.m. at the Rondo Community Library, located at 461 Dale St. North, in Saint Paul. The event helps us support the community, share our work, and raise funds to further our mission. We will provide a family-friendly learning environment. This will include a science lab and language circle featuring Swahili lessons. In addition, attendees will receive free books at the Leaders are Readers™ learning station.
Three unsung heroes will receive the Excellence in Education award which celebrates the accomplishments of community leaders. They embody the values of Planting People Growing Justice in their leadership. They are inspiring change in education. The 2022 honorees are: Lyric Higgins (youth activist), Dr. Leslie Hitchens (Maxfield Elementary Principal), and Miguel Ramos (Minnesota Twins Baseball Club Diversity & Inclusion Strategy Sr. Director).
Register for the 2022 Community Celebration and join us in planting seeds of social change: www.ppgjli.org
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.
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