Promoting Literacy, Diversity, & Intergenerational Reading to Create Paths to Children’s Success
Family Science Impact highlights how NCFR members are making a difference through their Family Science career and showcases their career journeys. See more about the many careers and professions of Family Science.
Name: Jacklyn Milton, M.A., CFLE
Current Job Title:
—Administrative Director and Co-Founder, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute (PPGJLI)
Tell us a bit about your current work and why it’s important.
I oversee day-to-day operations and support curriculum development for the Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute (PPGJLI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, that works to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach, specifically by promoting literacy and diversity in children’s books.
This has helped to define our organizational goals and develop a strategic action plan. In partnership with our local community, we decided to take action when we saw the nation’s reading crisis continue to expand. In the U.S., more than 1/3 of fourth graders were reading below a basic level in 2022 (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2022). Children who are not reading at grade level by fourth grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Children who drop out of high school are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested during their lifetime (National Dropout Prevention Center, n.d.).
PPGJLI seeks to end the school-to-prison pipeline and create new paths for success for all children. We achieve this goal by promoting literacy and diversity in books. To date, we have donated 17,000 diverse books and reached over 5,000 children through our school visits.
What was your path to your current role? What shaped or influenced that path?
This is my encore career. It was a natural progression after decades of service in early childhood education and K-12. It provided a holistic approach to reaching the entire family through the transformative power of reading, literacy, and intercultural dialogue. We are creating intergenerational reading circles where we help the entire family discover joy in reading.
How do you use Family Science knowledge or skills in your current work?
I use my Family Life Education knowledge to develop the curriculum and programming at PPGJLI.
This led to the development of our nationally recognized, Leaders are Readers program. We bring diverse authors into schools to share about their books, promote literacy, and spark interest in reading.
What is most rewarding or makes you proudest about the impact of your work?
I am proudest when I see children reading books that they enjoy. Reading can be a joyful hobby and a family activity. Yet oftentimes parents state that their children do not like to read. I challenge them to help their children find the books that they want to read.
For instance, my youngest daughter preferred nonfiction books while growing up. This ignited her passion for learning more about history and the leaders who inspire her today. My son enjoyed comic books and books about his favorite baseball heroes. My eldest daughter read every book about beauty and fashion, which supported her future career journey.
If you cannot find the books your child likes to read, this may be an invitation for your children to begin writing. One of my proudest PPGJLI moments was when we honored our first youth writing competition honoree, 10-year-old Zephaniah Martin. He wrote a wonderful book about the history of Kwanzaa (Jaheem’s First Kwanzaa). His book has inspired countless other children to learn more about Kwanzaa and celebrate cultural traditions.
What do you wish you would have known along your education or career path?
I wish I would have known the importance of following your passion. This is what led to the creation of PPGJLI. We founded the organization in my living room, and our leadership team brought together other passionate community members who were determined to end the school-to-prison pipeline by planting seeds of social change.
It is tempting to wait and believe change will come at the wheels of inevitability, but what if the change in the world begins with you? I learned this important lesson as we founded PPGJLI. I could no longer afford to wait on the sidelines as the nation’s reading crisis persisted. I had to be the change that I wanted to see in the world.
What do you want the world to know about your work, or about Family Science?
Many know me as the “Literary Leader.” This title was earned through my commitment to promoting early childhood education and literacy over the past 30 years.
Our work will continue to grow in partnership with others in the community. Anyone who is interested in working to plant seeds of social change is invited to share knowledge about the reading crisis, or to follow or get involved with PPGJLI through our mailing list, social media, book drive events, and more.
National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2022). NAEP Report Card: 2022 NAEP Reading Assessment. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2022/
National Dropout Prevention Center. (n.d.). Economic Impacts of Dropouts. https://dropoutprevention.org/resources/statistics/quick-facts/economic-impacts-of-dropouts/
U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Chronic Absenteeism in the Nation’s Schools. https://www2.ed.gov/datastory/chronicabsenteeism.html