With the Warriors taking the NBA Championship in June, we knew this summer was going to be bright for Oakland. In the past several weeks we’ve seen new investments supporting the city’s children and families and Summer Reading Celebrations getting books into the hands of children to be summer reading superheroes. For the first time since the launch of the grade–level reading campaign, third graders’ reading scores have jumped. And Oakland Reads held our third Annual Network Convening.
This year, more than 100 community leaders and stakeholders came together for a day of collaboration and discussion under the banner of “Mobilizing Oakland for Early Literacy: Today and Tomorrow.” A lineup of speakers and activities focused on building a sustained commitment to third grade reading success for Oakland and refining priorities for our campaign.
The Oakland Reads campaign is about what each in our network of service providers, educators, funders, volunteers, community members, leaders and advocates–do, and what we as a collective can accomplish together. To spark the conversation, a gallery walk showcased some of the promising work being done across Oakland to support reading success through school readiness, attendance and summer learning. We invited participants to share resources and activities contributing to reading success, painting an even richer picture of how those participating in the Oakland Reads network continue to widen their reach and deepen their impact.
The most exciting announcement of the day was sharing the news of third grade reading achievement. This year, Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) scores for spring assessments showed a nearly 7 percentage point increase in proficiency for third grade students, with African American students achieving the most gains with an almost 10 percentage point improvement. For the first time in years of stagnation and decline, we can show that the arrow is finally moving in the right direction.
Of course, this is just the beginning of the kind of results we need to see to ensure Oakland children are prepared for learning and future success. The gathering of partners was the perfect setting to share and learn from the collective work that contributed to realizing these increases and ensure that we stay the course. After all, we know that no one organization can do it alone.
Throughout the convening we asked participants to consider three questions:
- How do we sustain momentum for this work?
- How do we build our network to strengthen our movement?
- What are the unique ways Oakland Reads can contribute to realizing third grade reading success?
During the day we heard from David Silver, director of education to Mayor Schaaf, Dr. Brian Stanley, executive director of the Oakland Public Education Fund, and Isaac Kos-Read, chief of communications and public affairs for Oakland Unified School District. Each shared the role their agencies play to support children and families in the early years and highlighted key opportunities and advancements they see for Oakland.
Janine Macbeth, author and founder of Blood Orange Press, offered an inspiring reflection on the impact of diversity in children’s literature and reminded us that “every child deserves to see themselves in books.
With a policy discussion led by Samantha Tran and Kate Miller of Children Now, and facilitated activities imagining the role of Oakland Reads to improve outcomes for children, the event presented several opportunities to engage in these central questions.
After a full day of participating in dialogue, and after reviewing feedback from participants, several themes emerged. Overwhelmingly, our network shares the belief that community campaigns should remain a central part of the Oakland Reads work, and that they are an effective means to build public awareness and support. They broaden the network, engage the community, and increase access to resources and literacy rich environments for children and families. There is also a desire within the network to see some form of policy advocacy around issues impacting reading success. Finally, Oakland Reads should continue providing a forum for convening, networking collaboration, and supporting capacity around quality and implementation among providers.
Oakland Reads is grateful to the community for providing candid insights and contributing to a productive day. Together, we identified new opportunities to advance third grade reading in Oakland this year and beyond.