In 1984, Mayor Wilson Goode appointed Mattleman as executive director of the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy. Over half a million people in Philadelphia were estimated to be functionally illiterate (reading at a fourth grade level or less), a situation Mattleman said reflected a “national emergency” of adult illiteracy. Mattleman had full access to a supportive mayor, and raised over one million dollars, mainly from foundations, for the commission’s work during its first year.
In 1989, Mattleman, with a worthy successor in place as executive director of the commission, founded the Philadelphia Futures Program, in affiliation with the Philadelphia Urban Coalition. Her Philadelphia Futures Program matched up students with donors and mentors to help the students (in Mattleman’s words), “prepare for college and the world of work.” The mentors offer guidance and a positive role model, while donors provide up to $2,000 of financial support for each year of college. The efforts of Mattleman and the Philadelphia Futures program were nationally recognized by President Clinton at the White House in 1994.
Mattleman resigned from the Philadelphia Futures Program in 1997, explaining at the time, “I love start-up, I love new challenges.” She quickly accepted a new challenge in response to President Clinton’s America Reads Challenge in 1998. Mayor Ed Rendell named Mattleman to be the executive director of the Philadelphia Reads program. She drummed up the necessary financial support to implement the “100 Book Challenge,” which challenged students (kindergarten through third grade) to each read 100 books over the course of the school year. Mattleman launched a citywide “Books Not Guns” campaign to provide books to students who lacked books at home.
In 2002, Mattleman founded After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP), which established activities for students, ranging from debate teams and chess clubs to dance clubs and yoga. Once again, Mattleman raised an army of volunteers to provide valuable services. After winning the Philadelphia Award in 2007, Mattleman commented, “When you have a kid go to college who never thought they could, or learn to read, or win a chess tournament…it’s wonderful to see.