Beyond Our Gates supports literacy efforts with mini grants

Ann Johnston, founder of Read to Me, Stockton!

Ann Johnston, founder of Read to Me, Stockton!, said a Beyond Our Gates grant will help her agency distribute more books to children ages 5 and under.

Beyond Our Gates, a University of the Pacific community impact effort, is supporting nine San Joaquin County agencies with a combined $75,000 in mini-grants to focus on early childhood literacy.

The grants, through funding from the James Irvine Foundation, will support programs that include videos to help with distance learning, children’s literacy programs for Black families, screening for adverse childhood experiences and more.

Two of the agencies supported through 2020–21 mini-grants are Family Resource and Referral Center (FRRC) and Read to Me, Stockton!

“The resources being made available to early educators and child care providers through the Irvine Foundation this year will continue to advance our collective countywide goals of having all children able to read by the third grade,” said Kay Ruhstaller, executive director of FRRC. “We’re grateful to Pacific’s Beyond Our Gates for the organizational support that makes this funding opportunity available locally.”

“The Irvine Foundation’s mini-grants have made a huge difference in the ability of Read to Me, Stockton! to continue sending free books to Stockton's youngest children,” said Ann Johnston, program founder. “The funds allow us to send books to children from birth to age five with the goal of giving them early literacy activities to help prepare them for kindergarten. Parents report their children can't wait for the books to arrive each month and read them over and over again.”

For more information on Beyond Our Gates, contact Pacific Community Relations Director Mike Klocke at

$10,000 mini-grants

  • Mary Magdalene Community Services: The Ready for Third reading program focuses on Beyond Our Gates’ ages of influence, birth through third grade. The grant will fund programs for Black families with a focus on early literacy.
  • Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC): The Foundations of School Readiness Campaign will be offered at all CAPC preschools and toddler centers to screen for and identify ACEs—adverse childhood experiences. CAPC will develop toolkits for each classroom that help develop calming and coping strategies.
  • LOCkER: The program, under the auspices of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, will fund 36 videos with creative content to help distance learning efforts throughout San Joaquin County. LOCkER stands for Learning Outside of the Classroom Enrichment Resources.

$7,500 mini-grants

  • Read to Me, Stockton!: This program seeks to give children ages birth to 5 years old an early introduction to books. Free books are mailed each month to registered children in all Stockton zip codes.
  • Family Resource and Referral Center: The center’s Preschool Pathway to Reading by Third program will use the funding for laptops with a DVD reader to utilize online learning resources. The goal is to help children engage in activities that will lead to enhanced literacy development.
  • Tau Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma: The Books for Babes program gives a “Baby’s First Book” to all families of newborns at San Joaquin General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Medical Center, and emphasizes the important of reading to children from birth. The Tau Chapter has had this effort since 2002. The program has paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Evolution Skin Care Salon: The Beauty and Literacy program will combine an emphasis on literacy and taking care of one’s self. There will be a focus on literacy for children during visits to the salon by parents and guardians.
  • SJCOE Educational Foundation: The grant will fund literacy training enhancements for teaching candidates with San Joaquin Teachers College who are in need of more work on literacy-based areas such as phonics and comprehension.
  • Visionary Home Builders: The grant will be used to place Little Free Libraries at Visionary Home Builders sites and for programs to emphasize early literacy.