School-Age Collaborative

Academic Co-Lead: Shannon Wanless, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the Office of Child Development School of Education-Office of Child Development, University of Pittsburgh

Community Co-Lead: Shallegra Moye, EdD, Associate Director for Equity, Justice, & Strategic Initiatives at the Office of Child Development, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh

Community Research Coordinator:  Abby Chen, M.A., Senior Research & Evaluation Coordinator, Office of Child Development, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh

“The 3R’s program has allowed us the opportunity to get a better perspective on the ideas of Reading, Racial Equity and the building of Relationships. Our students deserve better and by educating ourselves in various areas we can have a better understanding of the overall learning process that takes place with our students and parents. The ability for the 3R’s staff to meet with our parents has been very helpful and shows that we are trying to level the playing field for all students and their families when it comes to education.” – Elementary School Principal 3Rs School Partner

The Early School Age Cohort has developed a literacy initiative in kindergarten through third grade in Allegheny County, called the 3Rs. The 3Rs has redefined the norm for literacy by amplifying the significance of reading, racial equity, and relationships. Our work is supported by research which recognizes that high quality literacy experiences, racial literacy, and adults collaborating across a child’s ecosystem increase a love of reading.

Therefore, we believe that enhancing children’s literacy experiences begins with partnering with adults. To support the entire early literacy ecosystem, we use a 4-strand approach with families, classroom teachers, community organizations, and education leaders.

Our first strategy for improving the local literacy ecosystem is to work directly with adults in ongoing communities of practice. Adults need a space to learn about the science of reading, to develop their own racial literacy, and to practice grappling with their own misconceptions and challenges about literacy. Building communities of practice that model speaking bravely about racism’s impact on literacy learning in our county is essential to helping adults be ready to disrupt it.

The second strategy we use for improving literacy experiences is the use of high quality, racially affirming picture books. The use of these picture books is a powerful tool for engaging adults and children alike, as well as for inspiring conversations about the salience of race in reading and childhood thriving. These books have characters and stories that can be windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors for children to make meaning of their own experiences and see from others perspectives as well. We aim to flood Allegheny County with high quality racially affirming picture books. Adult participants from each of our strands receives bundles of these carefully-selected books and we provide book bundles to community-based organizations, schools, and at community events.

We are excited to develop an intervention that is reshaping the skills, beliefs, and practices of diverse adults across Allegheny County’s literacy ecosystem. As we think about expanding and sustaining the 3Rs program, we know that transforming policy, continuing authentic engagement with community partners, and eradicating racism are key to childhood thriving.

“We recommend that adults read quality picture books to children and have conversations with them about the content of the picture books. What we’ve learned is that very often parents and educators think that they’re helping children understand race just by reading a book, but that’s the minimal that you can do. The most important thing is to have a conversation about what you’re seeing and reading together with your child.” Dr. Aisha White, P.R.I.D.E. Program Director

Contact us to get involved: tps.3rs@pitt.edu


The 3Rs team had the honor of presenting at the 2023 American Education Research Association conference in Chicago. They joined other amazing Equity advocates from the social and emotional learning (SEL) field to discuss their most recent publication. Review their presentation slides here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1rnxOAOyvHdsCHIpg5mpYko4jVa5yMgI4nFyMJnly_AA/edit?usp=sharing.


  1. Positive racial identity development in early education. Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education. 2019;4(2):73. 
  2. ** Zinsser KM, and Wanless SB. Racial disproportionality in the school-to-prison pipeline. In M. C. Stevenson, B. L. Bottoms, & K. C. Burke (Eds.), The Legacy of racism for children: Psychology, law, and public policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2020: 129-149.
  3. Spear, Caitlin & Briggs, Jennifer & Sanchez, Tiffany & Woody, Marla & Ponce-Cori, Jennifer. (2023). The Power of Picturebooks to Support Early Elementary Teachers’ Racial Literacy in Communities of Practice: An Example from the 3Rs (Reading, Racial Equity, Relationships). Early Childhood Education Journal. 1-13. 10.1007/s10643-023-01500-z.
  4. Orman, M., (2022, July 7) An Intro to “ecosystem mapping” with Allegheny County’s Literacy Ecosystem. Blog, Remake Learning, Pittsburgh PA.
  5. Wanless, S.B., Spear, C.F., Artinger, J.V., Briggs, J.O. (in press). Creating spaces for adult learning and professional development: Social-emotional skills for facilitating racial equity discussions. In S.E. Rimm-Kaufman, M.J. Strambler, K. Schonert-Reichl (Eds.), Social and Emotional Learning in Action: Creating Systemic Change in Schools. New York, NY: Guilford Publications. Chapter in press.