Early Literacy

Investing in the foundation for future learning and success

We cannot significantly increase the nation’s high school graduation rate unless and until we increase dramatically the number and proportion of children from low-income families who are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. – Ralph Smith, Managing Director, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The ability to read is foundational for future learning and success in school and life. By the end of third grade, students are expected to have proficient reading skills so that they can read to learn other subjects and more complex material starting the next year. As a result of years of advocating for a focus on third grade reading proficiency, the city of Oakland, Oakland Unified School District, and community partners have aligned and are committed to our shared ambitious goal of improving third grade reading proficiency to 85% by the year 2020. Reaching this goal will take a collaborative effort of families, schools, and community partners working to improve classroom literacy instruction, provide appropriate reading interventions and support services, and expand opportunities and remove barriers to learning that exist outside of school.

By 2020, literacy grantees will provide evidence-based interventions and support services to a minimum of 2,500 K-3 public school students, stronger systems will be in place to support schools to strategically partner with effective and appropriate interventions, and early literacy will be reflected in community priorities and investments, with the shared goal of increasing third grade reading proficiency to 85%. To accomplish this, the Foundation will focus on supporting early literacy service providers, public schools and school operators, and families of children ages 0-8.


Our Focus on Early Literacy

  • Evidence-based reading interventions and supports for early elementary students and educators. Children have diverse learning needs and even with effective classroom instruction there will always be students who require additional support in order to learn to read. Our work in early literacy will focus on identifying and supporting reading intervention providers working with K-3 students to grow their impact by expanding their reach, improving their practice, and strengthening systems for coordination and strategic partnership with schools and school operators. Because often times the students furthest from opportunity are disconnected from school-based services, the Foundation will also continue to partner with select community-based literacy providers.
  • Strengthening the Oakland Literacy Coalition strengthens the field of literacy service providers to achieve more powerful impact together. Through the Oakland Literacy Coalition (Coalition), literacy providers come together to learn, collaborate, and champion early literacy in the community. To position the Coalition to pursue its goals with greater community ownership and leadership, and sustain itself as an anchor institution for literacy efforts in the community, the Foundation supports the Coalition as an independent organization. This reflects a natural evolution in the structure of an effort that the Foundation has galvanized and incubated over seven years. The Coalition continues to be a key implementing but autonomous agent for the Foundation’s literacy goals and the Foundation remains a critical and active partner in the Coalition’s work in whatever future structure it takes.
  • Oakland Reads 2020: Build awareness and community engagement for early literacy. The Coalition continues to spearhead the Oakland Reads 2020 campaign to ensure early literacy is reflected in community priorities and investments, as well as connect students and families with literacy resources. Taking a more deliberate and focused approach as a campaign, Oakland Reads 2020 will build awareness for early literacy, create targeted engagement opportunities, and advocate for early literacy as a priority in city/community efforts and investments.
  • Foster literacy-rich environments. The Foundation’s early literacy work recognizes the important role families and books play in the literacy development of children and youth. One of our continuing strategies will be to connect families and schools with books and early learning resources to create literacy-rich spaces.
  • Align investments across the Foundation’s Quality Schools and Blended Personalized Learning initiatives. A significant portion of the Foundation’s strategy connects through schools as the unit of change. We are aware that improving classroom instruction is critical for transforming third grade reading outcomes. Oakland Unified School District’s implementation of a Balanced Approach to Literacy and Common Core aligned reading curriculum and assessments, along with the Foundation’s work in Blended Personalized Learning, are among the efforts underway to equip teachers with new tools and models to boost student achievement and reduce the need for additional intervention outside of the classroom. Through our work in early literacy, the Foundation will support promising capacity-building programs to further strengthen the ability of Oakland educators to provide effective and relevant literacy instruction in the early elementary grades. We are also committed to strategically integrating our work across all of our initiatives and co-locating investments to reinforce supports for early literacy across focal school sites.

For a current look at third grade reading proficiency in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools, visit the public OUSD Scholastic Reading Inventory interactive dashboard.


Oakland Reads 2020 Annual Grade-Level Reading Update

This update looks at key indicators from the Oakland Reads 2020 levers for Reading Success: School Readiness, Attendance, Summer Learning, and Family Engagement. Each section shares critical data points for student success in Oakland, makes the case for using data to drive outcomes, and highlights collaborative action already taking place.


OUSD Balanced Approach to Literacy Implementation Guide

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has developed a Balanced Approach to Literacy (BAL) Implementation Guide to provide a basic introduction to how the District defines this work, outline how the different components of the approach work together, and share links to resources to help teachers implement the approach into their classroom.


Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states, and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade. For more information, visit the Campaign website at http://gradelevelreading.net/