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Words to Grow On™, LLC is a new social impact company innovating ways to empower parents and caregivers with the knowledge and skills to develop young children’s potential and begin to disrupt the cycle of low literacy and educational inequality in the U.S.

Dr. Peggy Sissel, Founder and CEO
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My name is Dr. Peggy Sissel.  I am the Founder and CEO of Words To Grow On, LLC, a for-profit social enterprise that provides education consulting, program development, and innovative educational products for children, families, and communities.  Words To Grow On is my second entrepreneurial venture; my first was a successful publishing company of children’s picture books focusing on food literacy and health and wellbeing.  That company, Brain Child Press, is now a division of Words To Grow On.  Clients have included state agencies such as SNAP, WIC, Cooperative Extension, Head Start, and school systems in almost all 50 states.

I hold a doctorate in educational administration and prior to going into business was Executive Director of a philanthropic and advocacy organization for women and girls.I have had roles as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s research division and then was an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. During that time, I was the first person in Arkansas to begin addressing the problem of poor health literacy.  I have a background in research and evaluation and program development and have overseen budgets of over $2 million.

In addition, I have a rich history of working with other nonprofits, and in public health.  I have a lengthy resume of community service and volunteerism, which includes serving on dozens of boards and committees for local, state, and national organizations.  In 2002 I co-founded Arkansas’ Reach Out and Read coalition and helped doctors and their staff distribute over 750,000 books to families during well-child visits. I have also served as board member, Chair, and Interim Executive Director of the Arkansas Literacy Council, which funds and provides technical assistance to adult tutoring programs in the state.  From 2012 - 2020 I served on the Advisory Committee of Arkansas' Grade Level Reading Campaign.  My vision and administrative experience are the reason why, in the mid 2010’s, I was asked to serve as interim Executive Director for two different organizations.  Because of my dedication to community service I said yes, and provided administrative and oversight function for them both, at different times, for about six months each, until they were able to hire a new executive.

While I identify as a white woman, I have been a consistent ally to the BIPOC community.  I began my career in inner city Detroit, working with organizations on suicide prevention, sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence, and serving as a community advocate for Head Start, which was also the topic of my doctoral dissertation.  As a professor in the 1990s, I produced, with Dr. Vanessa Sheared, a groundbreaking, edited volume of academic papers in my field of adult education that represented, for the first time, the voices of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.   More recently, I served on a committee for the statewide Cradle to Prison Pipeline conference put on with Children’s Defense Fund; I have assisted with the state health department’s initiative for African American and Latina maternal and child health initiative by helping them locate books for infants and toddlers that include brown and black children, and have provided input to a new project in the community entitled “Businesses Against Racism.”


  • Selected for Inaugural Cohort of Early Futures Initiative (A project of Promise Venture Studios, Sesame Workshop and the Omidyar Network, in collaboration with Harvard's Center for the Developing Child.  2018 - present

  • Selected as member of OpenIDEO's National Early Childhood Innovation Network  2018

  • Selected (with Anna Waddell) for Delta i-Fund (A project of the U.S. Delta Regional Authority and Winrock International) 2018

  • Phase 1 Winner of  Bridging the Word Gap Competition (A project of the Division of Maternal and Child Health, Health Service Resources Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).  2016

  • Selected for Cohorts 1 and 2, Bridge the Word Gap Research Network's Practice-Based Research Collaborative.  2015 - 2016 and 2019

  • State Commissioner, Governor's Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism. 2013 - 2019 (I chaired the commission for 4 years)  

  • Kellogg Fellow, Cyril O. Houle Scholars in Adult and Continuing Education Program, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 1998 - 2000

  • Winner, Dissertation of the Year/Graduate Student Research Award, 35th Annual North American Adult Education Research Conference  1994

  • Achievement Award for Innovative Programming in Health, National Association of Counties 1987

  • Special Recognition for Innovative Programming National Association of County Health Officials 1987

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