Campus: CSU Long Beach -- July 5, 2002
Knight Foundation Gives Initial $1.3 Million to Literacy
Project Spearheaded by CSULB
What will it take to give preschoolers in one of the neediest zip codes
of Long Beach the support they need to enter school ready to learn?
What difference would better education and better paid childcare workers
make in the school readiness equation?
Seven education and social service organizations working together on
school readiness will start to tackle those questions with the help
of an initial $1.3 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation. The foundation has announced it will commit at least $2.5
million over the next five years.
California State University, Long Beach will spearhead the five-year
undertaking to improve literacy skills for more than 2,000 preschool
children at nine childcare centers in the broadly diverse 90806 zip
code, located primarily in the central Long Beach area.
"With this project, we have committed partners who are interested
in coming up with long-term solutions to the problem of school readiness
in our local young people," said Cal State Long Beach President
Robert C. Maxson. "Our hope is that the answers we find through
this effort will be transferable to larger numbers of students and whole
With the Knight Foundation grant, CSULB and its six partners in REACH
(Readiness and Early Activities for Children from the Heart) will address
a constant disruption in the field-staff turnover among the underpaid
care providers. Financial and education inducements, including stipends,
training and additional college credits, are among the strategies to
The other partners in the project are the Long Beach Unified School
District, the Long Beach Day Nursery, Young Horizons, Long Beach City
College, the City of Long Beach and Literacy Works.
"Getting any child ready for the rigors of life by the time school
starts is a full challenge, one made all the more difficult by the conditions
found in 90806," said Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of
the Knight Foundation. "But few communities understand the lifelong
commitment to learning better than Long Beach, and we're pleased to
support these collaborators."
The grant to the REACH partners is the newest--and largest--addition
to a portfolio of Knight Foundation efforts launched in the past year
to improve preschool literacy and school readiness in 90806.
A planning grant of $100,000 helped the REACH partners organize the
effort. The National Center for Family Literacy received funding of
$245,000 in March to boost its training and consulting services to the
staff of the Cambodian Family Literacy Project, which is funded by Los
Angeles County and housed at Burnett Elementary School.
And a grant to Long Beach City College involves nine other agencies,
including the public library, Head Start and the Children's Clinic,
to bring literacy, health and child development training and support
services to operators of 20 family daycare centers.
Knight´s local advisory committee, chaired by retired businessman
Jim Worsham, recommended the foundation focus its school-readiness efforts
on 90806 in part to complement existing funding efforts there in workforce
The zip code has a high concentration of need demonstrated by low-income
neighborhoods, gang activity and high rates of female-led single-parent
homes. It also has assets-great diversity, the city college and Long
Beach Memorial Medical Center- within its boundaries.
Along with grant funds from the Miami-based foundation comes the commitment
to continue developing a variety of measurable strategies over the long
haul to improve school readiness in a community noted for its seamless
approach to education.
"There is little doubt this is a risky undertaking, but Long Beach
understands the power of collaboration and we're willing, eager in fact,
to see how far they can take good ideas," Carter said.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism
worldwide and invests in the vitality of Long Beach and 25 other U.S.
communities. It has invested more than $12 million in Long Beach non-profits