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Irvine Foundation grant will boost San Joaquin literacy programs

Jan 26, 2016

University of the Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third Campaign has received a $300,000 grant from The James Irvine Foundation to strengthen early literacy programs in the North San Joaquin Valley.

The two-year award will support a community relations internship program for Pacific students. It also will expand projects that the university and its community partners have launched to promote school attendance, summer learning and school readiness.

The largest portion of the grant, however, will be awarded to local nonprofits and other groups, helping to enhance literacy initiatives throughout the community.

“The Irvine Foundation’s investment in San Joaquin County is a testament to the dedication of local leaders who have come together to help our children become strong readers,” said Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck, who initiated the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third campaign in 2012. “The foundation’s support will amplify and accelerate our efforts to ensure our kids have the early literacy skills they need to fulfill their dreams and build a bright future for California.”

The Beyond Our Gates initiative unites some 50 community partners – including school districts, the public library, businesses, nonprofits and faith-based groups – in an effort to improve early literacy.

“Ensuring students are successful readers is critical to our community’s health,” said Moses Zapien, chair of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and a member of the Beyond Our Gates Executive Committee. “But no one organization can meet this challenge alone. Continued progress depends on continued collaboration.”

For the past three years, the Beyond Our Gates coalition has been recognized by the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading as a “Pacesetter” in promoting early literacy. The coalition’s work was also highlighted at the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education in 2014.

“The ability to read is perhaps the most important single skill a child needs to be successful in the classroom and into adulthood,” said James Mousalimas, San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools and a Beyond Our Gates coalition member. “This community recognizes that an investment in literacy is an investment in our social, economic and educational future.”

Pacific and its Beyond Our Gates partners have developed the following programs over the past three years to improve literacy outcomes:

  • San Joaquin Literacy Report Card: Pacific has been issuing this report card every year since 2012  as a way to track progress and set priorities. This year’s report card showed that only 27 percent of the region’s children can read proficiently at the end of third grade.
  • Every Day Counts: Research shows that children who are chronically absent (those who miss 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, excused or not) are unlikely to be strong readers by the end of third grade. Pacific in 2013 launched the annual Every Day Counts Attendance Challenge to reward students for perfect attendance. The first year 12,000 local students achieved perfect attendance. Last year about 17,000 did.
  • Summer Learning Guides: Without access to high-quality summer programs, children can fall behind in reading by as much as two months during the long break. Working with The (Stockton) Record newspaper, the San Joaquin County Office of Education and First 5 San Joaquin, Pacific produces and distributes bilingual summer learning guides for students in preschool through third grade. Some 50,000 were distributed last year.
  • San Joaquin Reads: Through interactive workshops led by trusted community organizations, parents and caregivers are learning how to support literacy development at home. It doesn’t take extensive training or expensive equipment – just talking, singing, reading, drawing and playing. To date, Pacific has trained 20 organizations to host parent-child literacy workshops, and is promoting early literacy messages on billboards and buses.
  • Beyond Our Gates Dialogue: Pacific convenes this free, public summit each year to fuel the community’s collaborative literacy efforts with insight from top thinkers. Dialogue speakers have included Greg Lucas, California State Librarian; Alison Gopnik, author and early learning expert; and Ted Lempert, president of Children Now.

Meanwhile, Beyond Our Gates coalition members have launched literacy initiatives including Summer Book Buddies, a tutoring program developed by the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library; Little Free Libraries, a grassroots project to build and install mini lending libraries throughout Stockton; Books on Buses, sponsored by the San Joaquin Regional Transit District; Classroom Libraries, a program of the Stockton Unified School District; and Read to Me, Stockton, a Rotary-led effort that sends books to the homes of young children in select Stockton neighborhoods.

For more information about University of the Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates initiatives, visit BeyondOurGates.org

About The James Irvine Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. The foundation’s grantmaking focuses on three program areas: arts, California democracy and youth. Since 1937, The James Irvine Foundation has provided over $1.5 billion in grants to more than 3,600 nonprofit organizations throughout California. With about $2 billion in assets, the foundation made grants of $74 million in 2015 for the people of California.

About University of the Pacific
Established in 1851 as the first chartered institution of higher education in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton campus offers more than 80 majors in seven schools. The university’s distinctive Northern California footprint also includes a campus in San Francisco, home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and new graduate programs in health, food and technology fields, and in Sacramento, home to the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and new graduate programs in health, education, business and public policy. For more information, visit www.pacific.edu.