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Community Engagement

Stockton unites to boost summer reading among low-income children

Jun 16, 2014

A vacation from school won’t be a vacation from learning for 40 low-income children participating in Stockton Summer United, a summer literacy program that launches this week at south Stockton’s Sierra Vista Homes and Conway Homes housing developments.

The six-week pilot project will provide the children with breakfast, lunch and books – and storytelling by a NASA astronaut, Stockton’s police chief and other community leaders and volunteers.

Stockton Summer United was developed in response to research that has identified summer learning loss as a critical roadblock in children’s reading success, especially among low-income students. The project represents an innovative collaboration among the university, San Joaquin Housing Authority, United Way of San Joaquin County, Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs, and several other organizations. All are partners in Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third campaign.

“We strive to empower our children and families to be successful and engaged citizens,” said Barbara Kauss, executive director of the Housing Authority, which provides affordable housing to nearly 20,000 low-income residents, including at Conway and Sierra Vista. “By helping our children become stronger readers, we are helping build a stronger community.”

As part of the three-day-a-week program, first-, second- and third-graders will receive intensive reading tutoring from trained volunteers, many of them Housing Authority residents. The children will also enjoy visits from guest readers recruited from throughout the community.

Reading aloud to children is one of the most important ways to build language skills and inspire a love of books, but only about 40 percent of low-income children are read to daily, according to United States Census data.

On Wednesdays, community leaders will visit the program sites to share insights on education and community involvement with children and parents.

“We are transforming summer from a time when our students fall behind into one in which we inspire and cultivate leadership,” said Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs, who helped develop the Stockton Summer United program. “Children and families have an absolutely critical role in helping reinvent Stockton.”

Hosted by the Housing Authority, Stockton Summer United is a result of broad collaboration among Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates partners:

  • United Way of San Joaquin County is providing financial administration, and Executive Director Andy Prokop sits on the project’s advisory committee.
  • The Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library provided curriculum and tutor training
  • Stockton Unified School District assisted the Housing Authority in becoming a designated summer meal provider so that free, nutritious breakfasts and lunches can be served at Conway and Sierra Vista
  • University of the Pacific is providing books and technical assistance and recruited volunteer readers from within its Beyond Our Gates Community Council.

“We knew when we launched the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third campaign that no one organization could solve the challenge of early literacy on its own – that helping all children become strong readers would take a new, innovative and collaborative approach,” said Jennifer Torres Siders, who coordinates the Reading by Third campaign as Pacific’s community relations manager. “I’m proud to see that partnership in action.”

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

According to the 2013 San Joaquin County literacy report card, released by Pacific in September, only 34 percent of local third-graders score at the proficient level on standardized language arts tests.

Through the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third initiative, Pacific and its community partners are committed to achieving objectives proven to support strong reading skills: ensuring school readiness, promoting parent engagement, boosting attendance rates, and expanding access to summer learning opportunities.

Schedule of Community Leaders speaking at Conway and Sierra Vista:

June 18 – Tama Brisbane, executive director of With Our Words
June 25 – Candelaria Vargas, marketing and development director for El Concilio
July 2 – Moses Zapien, Stockton City Councilman
July 9 – Jose Hernandez, former NASA astronaut and a University of the Pacific regent
July 16 – Michael Tubbs, Stockton City Councilman
July 23 – Eric Jones, Stockton Police Chief

About Beyond Our Gates

Beyond Our Gates represents University of the Pacific’s commitment to work with community partners to improve social and economic health 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 strives to do that through such projects as Reading By Third, Tomorrow Project academies for elementary and high school students, and 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 a campus in San Francisco, which is home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, and the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. For more information, visit

Media contacts:

Jennifer Torres Siders | 209.946.3134 |
Claudia Morain | 209.946.2313 |

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