Pacific alumna’s family foundation helps school literacy diversity with grant

Child being read book

Each elementary school in Manteca Unified School District has 20 new books featuring diverse storylines thanks to a grant from the Antone E. and Marie F. Raymus Foundation.

University of the Pacific alumna Toni Raymus ’79 is president of the firm Raymus Homes.

The foundation originally donated $5,000 to the university’s Beyond Our Gates program to help fund the annual Every Day Counts Attendance Challenge. The attendance challenge, however, could not be held this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond Our Gates reached out to Manteca Unified about other potential uses for the funds.

MUSD officials cited a desire to increase the number of children’s books by diverse authors and with diverse storylines. More than 400 new books were purchased with the funds, which included an additional $1,000 from Beyond Our Gates.

Toni Raymus said she is thrilled with the outcome.

Raymus Homes has a tradition of enhancing literacy in the community. The company hosts the Great Valley Bookfest each October.

French Camp School is among the Manteca Unified sites already encorporating the books into everyday learning. Third-grade teachers Monica Lopez-Retamoza and Donna Whiteside read from the new books during a recent class session.

 “The kids have really liked the books and it is great to have these types of stories,” Lopez-Retamoza said.

Among the books received by each school are “Last Stop on Market Street” by Pacific alumnus Matt de la Pena ’96, “Ambitious Girl” by Meena Harris, “Skin Like Mine” by Latashia Perry and “Eyes That Kiss the Corners” by Joanna Ho.

The book selections were made under the guidance of Jenni Tyson, MUSD Director of Elementary Education.