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 communities.

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 be tested.
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 development.

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 since 1986.


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