Transitional kindergarten students reading together. Photo credit: Aspire Public Schools

Ready and Eager to Read

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation supports Oakland’s youngest learners. Our vision is that every child will enter kindergarten ready and eager to learn, and be able to read at or above grade level by third grade.

Expanding access to high-quality early childhood education is among the smartest investments that we can make. A child’s beginning years are vital to establishing the foundation they need to thrive in school and in life. The Rainin Foundation collaborates with committed educators and community partners who make learning fun and spark curiosity. Together, we help build children’s social, emotional, language and literacy skills so that they can flourish.

“Oakland’s children deserve the best chance to succeed—that’s why we invest in the adults who care about them the most. We’re grateful to have extraordinary partners who accelerate progress for our youngest learners.”

Paula Ambrose, Education Program Officer

Adults help make learning fun and spark children’s love of learning. Photo credit: Reach out and Read

Seeding a City of Readers

We know that meaningful relationships with adults are linked to a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development. That’s why we invest in the adults who love and teach them, wherever they learn.

The Rainin Foundation is in its fifth year of leading the funding and implementation for SEEDS of Learning in Oakland. SEEDS of Learning is a proven method for supporting teachers and unlocking double-digit gains in literacy development. At its heart, it is a relationship-based professional development program. Educators gain evidence-based strategies to build children’s social, emotional, cognition, language and literacy skills. These strategies build on the “Big 5” early literacy skills that are most predictive of kindergarten readiness and school success. The Rainin Foundation provides educator training, classroom resources and ongoing coaching support to teachers while fostering data-driven decision-making.

Our goal is to have SEEDS of Learning operating in as many preschool and transitional kindergarten classrooms as possible, so that all of Oakland’s children have the best chance to succeed in school. To support this goal, we began offering Master Coach certification to help our accomplished partners scale and sustain this effort. Certified Master Coaches then train onsite literacy specialists. These specialists provide ongoing classroom support and coaching to teachers in SEEDS strategies.

SEEDS of Learning classroom results are inspiring non-school partners to seek training and adopt core elements of this approach. East Bay Agency for Children created a Parent-Child Education Support Program at La Academia, their early childhood education program. This program supports children and their families through an informal preschool and parenting workshops and by connecting parents to child development services. By spreading SEEDS of Learning, the Rainin Foundation champions the power of learning and literacy for all Oakland children.

“SEEDS of Learning provides the best and the clearest strategies to ensure that teachers use developmentally appropriate practices. This program also aligns with the developmental milestones found in the California preschool framework.”

Vivien LeVias, Head Start Preschool Teacher


Number of children who developed early literacy skills in SEEDS of Learning classrooms during the 2017-2018 school year

Each day of reading adds nearly 1.5 words to a child’s vocabulary—one of the biggest predictors of later success in school


Number of teachers and tutors who received training in SEEDS of Learning methodologies during the 2017-2018 school year

Educators Learning Together

The impact of professional development is magnified when teachers learn with and from each other. We support bringing teachers and leaders together across the spectrum of schools and learning centers. These opportunities strengthen relationships and the early childhood literacy development field.

The Oakland Literacy Coalition is one essential partner in our work to improve outcomes for children and families. With ever-growing demands on educators, providers and organizations, the Coalition is committed to bringing them together and building their capacity. The Rainin Foundation funded the Coalition’s three-day literacy institute last fall, led by the Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education. Participants included 30 educators from Oakland Unified School District, Aspire Public Schools, Education for Change and eight community-based literacy programs. Building educators’ shared knowledge in collaborative learning environments like this is instrumental to supporting student success.

Along with other funders, the Rainin Foundation is supporting an early childhood education professional development symposium—the first of its kind—in October 2019. This symposium is a collaborative effort with OUSD’s Office of Early Childhood Education, the City of Oakland’s Head Start program, First 5 Alameda County and other key agencies. The symposium will welcome 400 diverse providers serving children from birth to five years old. Attendees will include family, friend and neighbor caregivers, along with center-based and family child care. Participants will grow their skills in providing high-quality services for families, and gain new skills to support children’s learning and healthy social and emotional development.

“Oakland educators are all united around early literacy— working together for a future where every child learns, loves to read, and thrives in school and in life.”

Sanam Jorjani, Co-Director Oakland Literacy Coalition

Melvin Tamoro is a SEEDS of Learning literacy tutor and an expert at getting kids excited to learn. Photo credit: Lori Halloran

New Pathways for New Educators

Every day, we see how teachers matter in children’s lives. Who those teachers are also matters. Research shows positive effects on children’s development when teachers mirror the racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of their students. Our experience with SEEDS of Learning has introduced us to aspiring educators from surrounding neighborhoods. Their love of learning and teaching, combined with SEEDS training, has enabled them to become highly effective teacher aides.  

Recognizing the benefits of diversity in schools, we made new investments to enrich the pipeline of early childhood teachers. We partnered in a collaborative effort with the Unity Council and OUSD’s Office of Equity and Office of Early Childhood. Our planning grant lays the groundwork for piloting the Men of Color Early Education Teaching Fellows. It leverages one of our greatest assets—diverse talent within our local communities—to support the reading success of young learners.

To complement this effort, our grant to San Francisco State University’s EDvance Program creates a new leadership experience within their graduate program. Focused on early childhood, it aims to develop more skilled administrators and leaders within the field.

“This leadership offering is a critical first step in making the case for and piloting courses that will elevate the Masters of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree and help to build the field down the line.”

Dr. Lygia Stebbing, EDvance Director, San Francisco State University

Preschool students at St. Vincent’s Day Home in West Oakland. Photo courtesy: St. Vincent’s Day Home.

Listening To Lead

We believe all children deserve equitable opportunities to learn and thrive. We are committed to closing opportunity gaps in Oakland by working closely with community providers and other partners.

Learning, listening and relationship-building are as essential to our success as they are to Oakland’s children. As a learning organization, we look to you—our partners and grantees—to help us assess our work and determine where we can do better. In 2018 we asked how we can leverage our assets to better support young learners and promote equity in education.

The survey, led by the National Equity Project, helped us gain essential insights. We’re using your feedback to look at our goals and explore creative strategies for our education philanthropy. You also affirmed that the Rainin Foundation is a champion of early childhood education and a responsive and trusted partner. We are committed to continuing to work with you to improve outcomes for all Oakland children.

Reach out and Read partners with pediatricians to give out free books at health checkups. Photo courtesy: Reach out and Read

Supporting Children and Families

Each day of reading adds nearly 1.5 words to a child’s vocabulary—one of the biggest predictors of later success in school. We invest in community organizations that help families nurture their children’s success as readers and joyful learners. Multifaceted programs strengthen family relationships and provide literacy-rich experiences through out-of-school and summer programming.

Among our first-time grantees, Lincoln’s West Oakland Initiative combines kindergarten to third grade learning with responsive parental supports. Their culturally affirming literacy programming bolsters students’ skills at four West Oakland elementary schools and through their summer Freedom School program. Springboard Collaborative’s summer program provides daily reading instruction to 600 children. Their parents benefit from weekly workshops and home visits to help them foster reading at home. Similarly, Lotus Bloom’s playgroups and family resource services support positive parenting and create safe spaces for children’s overall development.

Our community-based grantees are also getting books into the hands of children to bring home. Reach out and Read takes advantage of routine baby health checkups by trusted pediatricians to distribute free books. Book Trust is helping kids build personal libraries with books they’re excited to read. And Friends of the Oakland Library will give away 14,000 books at community events, preschool graduations, hospital waiting rooms, and even laundromats.

Children in East Bay Agency for Children’s informal preschool are learning and thriving. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Investing in Schools and Communities:
2018 Grantees

The Rainin Foundation invested over $6 million in 2018 to improve literacy among Oakland’s children.

Education grantmaking supports programs that help Oakland children be ready for kindergarten and on track for third grade reading success.

Note: Financials are subject to audit verification

We are honored to partner with these schools and community-based organizations who are helping children become confident, capable and joyful learners! View more information about these grants.

Aspire Public Schools:

  • Berkley Maynard Academy
  • College Academy
  • Eres Academy
  • Monarch Academy
  • Triumph Technology Academy


Book Trust

Center for Collaborative Classroom

City of Oakland Head Start

Community School for Creative Education

East Bay Agency for Children

East Bay Community Foundation

Education for Change:

  • Achieve Academy
  • Ascend Academy
  • Cox Academy
  • Lazear Charter Academy
  • Learning Without Limits

Friends of the Oakland Public Library


Lighthouse Community Charter School


Literacy Lab

Lotus Bloom Family Resource Center

Oakland Literacy Coalition, Inc.

Oakland Unified School District:

  • Allendale Elementary
  • Bella Vista Elementary
  • Bridges Academy
  • Burckhalter Elementary
  • Allendale Elementary School
  • Bella Vista Elementary School
  • Bridges Academy
  • Burckhalter Elementary School
  • Carl B. Munck Elementary School
  • East Oakland Pride Elementary School
  • Emerson Elementary School
  • Encompass Academy
  • Esperanza Elementary School
  • Franklin Elementary School
  • Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy
  • Garfield Elementary School
  • Glenview Elementary School
  • Greenleaf Elementary School
  • Horace Mann Elementary School
  • La Escuelita Elementary School
  • Lincoln Elementary School
  • Madison Park Academy
  • Manzanita Community School
  • Manzanita Seed
  • New Highland Academy
  • Parker Elementary School
  • Place @ Prescott
  • Reach Academy
  • Rise Community School

Oakland Unified School District Office of Early Childhood Education

Reach Out and Read, Inc.

Reading Partners

Roses in Concrete Community School

Springboard Collaborative

St. Mary’s Preschool

St. Vincent’s Day Home

San Francisco State University—EDvance Program

Springboard Collaborative

Tandem, Partners in Early Learning

Unity Council

Urban Montessori

Vincent Academy

Explore the Foundation’s website to learn more about our Education program.