Reading on grade level by third grade is one of the most important predictors for high school graduation and career success. The Rainin Foundation’s grant making supports strategies to reduce early disparities in language and literacy development, and support grade level reading.


The Challenge

During the first years of life, infants, toddlers and preschoolers need frequent language rich interactions such as talking, reading, and singing to develop the essential language and literacy skills they need to be ready for kindergarten and successful readers by the end of third grade. Decades of researchacross multiple disciplines have demonstrated the importance of these interactions in developing a child’s brain for later learning, behavior and health.

New reseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAarch from Stanford University2 validates findings about early literacy gaps emerging well before children enter kindergarten. By age 2, children living in high poverty communities are already six months behind their affluent peers in vocabulary development.

These gaps in learning translate into achievement gaps, contributing to the fact that one-third of California students are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade.  Too many of Oakland’s children are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade, which has serious consequences for their future success and for Oakland as a community. Through investments and community partnerships focused on reaching underserved children from birth through third grade, the Rainin Foundation champions programs that can help change these statistics.

Our Approach

We take a collaborative approach, working with parents, educators, schools, businesses and other philanthropic organizations to provide the right assistance at the right time for children and families in need of this support. Our early literacy strategy has two areas of focus: (1) Providing resources to make Oakland a literacy rich city, which includes increasing access to and support for quality literacy experiences for children and families, and (2) providing support for transitional kindergarten and preschool classrooms.

Early Literacy Resources for Children and Families

The Rainin Foundation is working in partnership with community organizations to increase access to and support for early literacy and language experiences. Families in Oakland will discover expanded playgroups, increased access to free books and fun new ways to build reading into the family’s daily routines.

Talk, Read, Singtrs_logo

Talk, Read, Sing is a new public awareness campaign that launched in Oakland in July 2014 and will continue in 2015. It seeks to encourage parents, grandparents, other family members and caregivers to talk, read and sing more to their babies and toddlers, thereby enhancing vocabulary acquisition and preparing children for success in school and beyond. The Rainin Foundation supports this campaign in collaboration with the Bay Area Council, Too Small to Fail–a joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and many local businesses.

Talk, Read, Sing offers prompts for interactions with children from birth to age 5, such as describing objects seen during a walk, singing songs, or telling stories. The campaign’s creative messaging will appear throughout Oakland on bus shelters, billboards and other public spaces. In addition, local partners and pediatricians will disseminate messages directly to parents and caregivers using a new clothing line for children created in partnership with Oaklandish, a local independent retailer.

Supporting Oakland Transitional Kindergarten & Preschool Classrooms

Our second initiative funds the implementation of SEEDS of Learning , a state of the art professional development system that works with teachers of preschool and transitional kindergarten children to improve outcomes in language, and enhance the social and emotional development of young children.

SEEDS is a relationship based coaching and educational model that provides children with frequent, regular, fun and meaningful experiences that support them in acquiring needed skills to become successful, confident, happy learners. It includes intensive coaching, tutoring resources for the classroom, child progress monitoring, and strategies that grow children’s skills and teacher effectiveness. The SEEDS of Learning Initiative will initially work with several schools in the Oakland Unified School District. From these schools, three will be selected to pilot more in depth work.

What We Are Working Toward

The Rainin Foundation is passionate about ensuring Oakland children are prepared to succeed in kindergarten and become successful readers because reading on grade level is one of the most important predictors for high school graduation a2 girls with blocks_preknd career success. We will measure the progress of our initiatives by tracking the impact of our efforts on literacy outcomes year over year, and by assessing our community’s progress towards making Oakland a literacy rich city.

Who We Work With

We partner with a collaborative group of funders, nonprofit organizations and the Oakland Unified School District. We seek to leverage and maximize resources, and welcome participation and matching funds from other foundations and corporations.


For more information

Contact us at if you have questions. For Talk, Read, Sing outreach campaign information and resources, please visit You can also access more information about professional development for teachers at SEEDS of Learning.


1   For resources from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University visit

2  Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A. and Weisleder, A. (2013), SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18. Developmental Science, 16:–248.

California Standards Test in English Language Arts (CST ELA), Oakland Unified School District, Spring 2013.


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