Community Engagement

Community Issues Call to Action on Early Literacy

Pacific and San Joaquin County leaders launch effort to boost reading ability
Benerd Student reading to a child as part of the Book Buddies Program

Benerd Student reading to a child as part of the Book Buddies Program. Book Buddies is just one of the many literacy programs that are available to the Stockton Community. The Beyond our Gates Community Council endeavors to improve and expand literacy programs throughout San Joaquin County.

Sep 3, 2012
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The ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade has been called a critical indicator of a child's future educational success. And it's a goal that too few of San Joaquin County's children reach.

Research shows that students who aren't strong readers when they leave third grade fall behind - and many never catch up, making them far more likely to drop out of high school and far less likely to go on to success in college and careers. Last year, fewer than half of local third graders were proficient readers, a problem for families and for the future of our region itself.

Beyond Our Gates logoLiteracy is a national problem, not isolated to one community.

"Our community, which is a reflection of society at-large, is at a crisis stage in regards to early childhood literacy," said Sue de Polo, executive director of San Joaquin A+, a nonprofit agency that has long been active in promoting literacy and education in our community. De Polo also is a member of University of the Pacific's Beyond Our Gates Community Council, an advisory board convened by Pacific President Pamela Eibeck to find collaborative solutions to the region's most critical challenges. "If our children can't read, they're not going to have a very bright future. Our nation won't be able to compete."

The problem is critical, but not unsolvable. Through the Beyond Our Gates Community Council, Pacific and its local partners are building a collective strategy to improve early literacy in San Joaquin County. 

President Eibeck"Together, we are putting a laser focus on a critical issue for San Joaquin County's future. The Beyond Our Gates Community Council is bringing together our region's many excellent childhood literacy programs so we can pool our strengths and flex our collective know-how. Working as a group, we can help overcome one of our region's most pressing challenges and create a path to success for our children and community."
President Pam Eibeck 





On Sept. 17, as part of San Joaquin Reads Week (Sept. 15 to 23), University of the Pacific will welcome nationally recognized literacy expert Ralph Smith, senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to deliver the keynote address at Pacific's second-annual Beyond Our Gates Dialogue. Smith will lead a discussion with stakeholders from throughout the county on how the community can come together to improve early literacy. The event will take place at The Haggin Museum - 1201 N. Pershing Ave., Stockton, CA 95203.

De Polo said that Pacific's call to action on child and family literacy development can help improve third grade reading levels and thus address one of the root causes of the poverty, crime and low education levels that persist in the San Joaquin Valley.

President Eibeck reads to children as part of Benerd School of Education's Book Buddies program
University of the Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck reads to children as part of Pacific's Book Buddies Program, a reading mentor program for local children, during the Spring semester. The program, one of numerous literacy initiatives at the university, teams students from the Gladys L. Benerd School of Education with kindergarten through third graders.

"We've got to get everybody on the bandwagon on this," de Polo said. "The University, as the thrust pushing forward the literacy movement in San Joaquin County, can be the tipping point. All of us together have to implore parents, grandparents and others, to support teachers in making education valuable for children, if we want them to succeed."

To attend the Sept. 17 literacy discussion on campus, contact Jennifer Torres Siders, community relations manager at (209) 946-3134 or

Beyond Our Gates

Beyond Our Gates was launched by University of the Pacific in 2010 as a collaborative campaign to identify ways of improving the social and economic wellbeing of our region. The Beyond Our Gates Dialogues represent one of the initiatives created as part of that endeavor. Others include the Tomorrow Project, after-school, weekend and summer academies - operated in partnership with local organizations - that work directly with students and families to improve academic achievement; and the Beyond Our Gates Community Council, an advisory body formed to help structure Pacific's continued community-engagement priorities.

San Joaquin Reads Week

Now in its 13th year, San Joaquin Reads Week aims to rally the county's residents around literacy and education. This year's celebration kicks off on Sept. 15, with the Stockton Record newspaper's  Family Day at the Park, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at University Park, N. California and E. Magnolia streets in Stockton. The event last year drew about 20,000 attendees. The focus of the event is to offer resources and educational opportunities to community members. One of the event's sponsors, University of the Pacific will host the "Beyond Our Gates at Library Lane" area of the festival.

On Sept. 16, The Benerd School of Education and the San Joaquin Reading Association will host the annual Sunday Sundae event for children and families. At the event, families will meet a children's book author and make ice cream sundaes. The event takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, Benerd School of Education, Room 208. 


Christopher Heredia, media relations coordinator, University of the Pacific

(209) 946-3275 or