education Blog

Kenneth Rainin Foundation Launches New Multi-Year Early Literacy Initiatives for Oakland Children

Photo above: Susan True, Kenneth Rainin Foundation; Hillary Clinton, Too Small to Fail; and Jeff Goodby, creator of the Talk, Read, Sing campaign, show the new clothing line for children that will launch in July 2014 in Oakland, CA.

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Board of Directors announced the launch of two multi-year early literacy initiatives that will serve Oakland children from birth through age 8. The Foundation has approved $1.95 million in grants to schools and area nonprofit organizations this year to support these new initiatives intended to reduce early disparities in language and literacy development. These initiatives are aligned with new research by Stanford University, which validates findings about early literacy gaps emerging well before children enter kindergarten. In fact, 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, one of the most important predictors for high school graduation.

“During the first years of life, infants, toddlers and preschoolers experience the greatest window of opportunity to develop the essential language skills needed for later success,” said Susan True, Director of Education Strategy & Ventures at the Rainin Foundation. “The programs we are launching will support families and teachers in making the most of the early years to ensure success in school and in life.”

Making Oakland a Literacy Rich City

Group Read - CONTENTThe first initiative aims to make Oakland a literacy rich city by providing resources to children and families to increase access and support for quality literacy experiences. The Rainin Foundation has awarded over $770,000 in funding to 12 community organizations to increase children’s access to books and provide enriching early literacy opportunities. Families in Oakland will find expanded play groups, books supplied by pediatricians and more fun ways to build reading into family routines. View the list of grantees at

The Foundation is also very excited to announce its support for the launch of a new public awareness campaign—Talk, Read, Sing—that will be piloted in Oakland in July. The campaign seeks to motivate parents, grandparents, other family members and caregivers to talk, read and sing more to their babies and toddlers to enhance vocabulary acquisition and prepare children for success in school and beyond. It is a collaboration of the Bay Area Council and Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, as well as many businesses.

Talk, Read, Sing will offer 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.

Support for Transitional Kindergarten & Preschool Classrooms

The second initiative will launch in July and will fund the implementation of SEEDS of Early Literacy, 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. The Rainin Foundation has allocated $1.17 million to support this initiative in the first year.

“Our goal is to give every child a strong start on the path to college, community and career readiness,” said Gary Yee, Acting Superintendent of OUSD. “Schools have an essential responsibility to help all children succeed, but they cannot do this alone. These initiatives involve parents, educators, businesses and the philanthropic sector working together. By providing the right assistance at the right time for children and families in need of this support, we can improve language and literacy development and help children become successful learners.”


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