OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Mayor Jean Quan on Monday kicked off “Oakland Reads 2020,” a seven-year literacy campaign that aims to improve literacy among the city’s schoolchildren.

With only 42 percent of Oakland’s third graders reading at grade level, the project aims to improve that figure to 85 percent by the end of the decade.

“All of Oakland deserves to read,” Quan said at a briefing with outgoing Oakland Unified School District Superintendant Tony Smith. City council members Libby Schaaf and Dan Kalb were also at the news conference at the Oakland Marriott City Center, as well as State Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

Quan said students who are not prepared to read in third grade are 13 times more likely to drop out of high school. She said poor reading skills can affect children for life, hurting their ability to get a job and making them more likely to become involved in crime.

“If kids do well in school, they will have more hopes and dreams,” Quan said.

Smith, who will be leaving his superintendent post by the end of the month, said the 85 percent reading readiness goal can only be achieved if everyone — from the mayor’s office to parents to the public housing authority — shares the responsibility.

He emphasized the importance of school attendance, which he noted boosts school funding and is correlated to academic success.

“In order to be successful in school, they have to be at school,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get the little ones to school.”

Oakland parent Charles Allensworth said the community needs to step in and support the project.

“The more that we give, the more our children will benefit from our efforts,” he said.

So far, Oakland Reads 2020 has received $700,000 in private funding from the Rogers Family Foundation, Kenneth Rain Foundation, and the East Bay Community Foundation.

The effort continues to be supported by almost 100 other private and public entities, including the City of Oakland and OUSD. Program organizers are looking to secure more funding at the city, state, and federal levels.

The initiative is part of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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