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Beyond Our Gates aims to ensure more children are strong readers by the end of third grade.

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Community Engagement

University-led collaboration to promote early literacy earns national honor

The Community Pacesetter award recognizes communities for energy, mobilization and creativity in working to ensure more children are strong readers by the time they leave third grade.
Jan 15, 2014

A University of the Pacific-led coalition to improve reading proficiency among the youngest students in San Joaquin County has been recognized with a 2013 Community Pacesetter award, the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announced today.

The honor recognizes communities for their energy, mobilization and creativity in working to ensure more children are strong readers by the time they leave third grade.

Pacific launched the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third collaboration in 2012. The coalition today comprises about 50 community partners, including school districts, the public library, businesses, nonprofits, elected officials, government agencies and faith-based groups in Stockton and throughout the county.

"As a community, we should be proud to see so many dedicated individuals and organizations rallying behind early literacy, an issue that is critical to the successful futures of our young people - and to our region as a whole," said Pamela A. Eibeck, president of University of the Pacific, which has its main campus in Stockton.

"To receive national recognition for this community-based effort is deeply encouraging. We know our goals are ambitious, and working in collaboration with our local partners, we are on the path toward achieving them," Eibeck said.

With the launch of the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third initiative, Stockton became one of 140 communities across the country to join the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Participating communities share the common goal of better supporting children, especially those from low-income backgrounds, from birth through third grade.

Studies have shown that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical milestone on a child's educational path. And it's one that too many San Joaquin County students fail to reach.

According to a San Joaquin County literacy report card released by Pacific in September, only 34 percent of the region's third graders test at the proficient level on standardized language-arts tests.

"Public education is the key to strengthening Stockton's economy and enhancing quality of life," said Steve Lowder, superintendent of the Stockton Unified School District, a Beyond Our Gates partner. "Schools cannot do it alone. It takes a community, and we are proud to be part of a community where so many citizens are willing to work alongside us to improve literacy and education."

Acknowledging that schools alone cannot address all the challenges that keep children from learning to read, the Beyond Our Gates initiative works with nonprofits and other partners to ensure that children are prepared to succeed when they arrive at kindergarten, attend school regularly and keep learning through the summer months.

City Librarian Chris Freeman, who heads the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library System, is among the Beyond Our Gates partners. "The library is committed to improving literacy for citizens of all ages - from preschoolers just discovering books to adults who want to improve their skills so they can better support their children's educations," Freeman said. "We recognize the critical importance of literacy in our everyday lives and continue to seek new ways of building a stronger reading community."

Some of the programs and activities that Pacific and its partners undertook to promote early literacy in 2013 include:

  • Family Literacy Project - With funding from First 5 San Joaquin, Beyond Our Gates partners hosted workshops to teach parents why and how to read with their young children.
  • Summer Book Buddies - Volunteer tutors at Stockton's Chavez Central Library helped incoming first-, second- and third-graders who were struggling with reading.
  • Every Day Counts Attendance Challenge - Pacific coordinated an attendance incentive campaign that helped reduce truancy at 40 participating elementary schools.
  • Beyond Our Gates Dialogue and Early Childhood Education Research and Practice Symposium - Pacific's Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, alongside the San Joaquin County Office of Education, local school districts and other organizations, coordinated a daylong summit on challenges and opportunities in early childhood education.
  • Reach Out and Read San Joaquin Book Drive - Over the past two years, Pacific students, faculty and staff have collected roughly 5,000 books on behalf of Reach Out and Read San Joaquin, a program in which pediatricians distribute books at well-child check-ups.
  • Read to Me Stockton - Organizers expanded a program that delivers a free book every month to participating children in underserved neighborhoods.

"We are impressed and inspired by what Stockton-San Joaquin County has accomplished so far," said Ralph Smith, managing director of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "With its commitment, resourcefulness and collaborative spirit, Beyond Our Gates truly is setting the pace and providing a model for communities across the nation who are seeking to give more children from low-income families a chance at a brighter future. " 

The Stockton-San Joaquin County community is one of 37 Pacesetters named for 2013.

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in May 2010, the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. It focuses on reading proficiency by the end of third grade, a key predictor of high school graduation and a milestone missed by 80 percent of low-income children.

About Beyond Our Gates

Beyond Our Gates represents University of the Pacific's commitment to work with community partners to improve the social and economic health of people in Stockton and San Joaquin County. University President Pamela A. Eibeck convened a series of public forums in 2010 to discuss the community's most urgent problems and to begin considering solutions. Through these continuing conversations, education emerged as a pressing challenge and the most promising means of enhancing quality of life. Beyond Our Gates was created to accomplish this through such projects as Reading By Third and the Tomorrow Project academies for elementary and high-school students, as well as through ongoing community engagement via the Beyond Our Gates Community Council. For more information, visit

About University of the Pacific

Established in 1851 as the first university 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 undergraduate majors in arts and sciences, music, business, education, engineering and computer science, and pharmacy and health sciences. The university's distinctive Northern California footprint also includes the acclaimed Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco and the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

Phyllis Jordan; Campaign for Grade-Level Reading;; 301.656.0348
Jennifer Torres Siders; Community Relations Manager; University of the Pacific;; 209.946.3134


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