Learning Sciences Exchange Fellow

Michelle Dinneen-White

Michelle Dinneen-White is the Founder and Executive Director of Play Smart Literacy. Play Smart Literacy was created in 2014 with a mission to build language and relationships through play. PSL empowers parents and caregivers of children living in Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods to use positivity and joy as catalysts for change. Based on the belief that recognizing the good in ourselves allows for the recognition of the good in others, PSL cultivates an environment for positive growth and change. Play is not only joyful, but it helps children learn. Play has the power to bring families together and prepare children for success in school and life. Since its inception, Play Smart has connected online and in-person with families, distributed thousands of books, toys and diapers, each with messaging about the importance of adding the words at home, initiated thousands of mini-meetings with families about the importance of talk and play, registered hundreds of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers for follow-up support and deeper engagement, and reached multiple generations of families.

Michelle’s career is strengthened by the combination of nearly 30 years experience in public service and community-based education. Bringing creativity and strategy to her work and effectively amplifying learning across her grassroots team and other organizations, she has worked hard as a part of the movement to bring early literacy and family-engaged play to public spaces. She has activated her passion by building an early literacy and family engagement outreach model and teaching at the family literacy, early childhood, high school, community college level. Mrs. White has a
strong academic foundation in Early Childhood education practices, curriculum & instruction, child and adolescent psychology, and economics.

Michelle was recognized nationally by the Laundry Cares Foundation where she was awarded the 2021 Outstanding Community Action Award by Chelsea Clinton. She has been recognized as “One of Chicago’s Most Inspiring Stories”, and as a finalist for the NCFL 2018 Family Teacher of the Year. She shares her knowledge widely and often speaks at national conferences and workshops and participates across Chicago in early learning networks, working to solve issues critical to our communities and our children. She seeks to continue to find progressive ways to reform education and fight the challenges of poverty using science-based and collaborative innovations of thought and practice. She practices growth-focused, intentional development of strong, resilient families. She lives in Chicago with her husband and is a mother to five daughters. Michelle is very excited to be a part of the newest LSX Global Fellowship cohort.