A Reading Program in Oakland is Helping Students Struggling With English Standards

As a child, I did not do much reading outside of the classroom. The reading I did inside of the classroom was forced and laborious for both my teachers and myself. I thought reading was “boring,” and the content I read, which was usually written by authors of European descent, was incompatible with my daily experiences growing up as a Latino male in Oakland, California. Fast-forward 20 years, I am now a university graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

Thinking back on it, I realize that I did not find reading “boring”—I found it difficult. I imagine that I was not the only 5th grade student who found reading “boring.” According to the fourth annual “Oakland Achieves: Public Education Progress Report,” 45% of students tested in district run schools did not meet English standards. In charter schools, 55% of students tested did not meet English standards. There are many factors that play into the high percentage of children with low literacy levels, but there are also several institutions that are helping lower those percentages year after year.

One such institution is the Super Stars Literacy Program, serving the literacy needs of young students in Oakland, California. The Super Stars Literacy Program provides early literacy intervention to students in kindergarten through second grade with the intention that they are prepared to arrive at, or above, grade level by the time they reach 3rd grade. Because of their work, Super Stars Literacy Program reports that “88% of students made literacy gains, with 45% achieving accelerated growth.” Through in-class interventions, as well as after-school programs, Super Stars Literacy has been able to intervene in the literacy development of over one thousand students in Oakland, California.

Early literacy interventions like those provided by Super Stars Literacy Program are vital for the future academic achievements made by students in Oakland. According to Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters, a report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who read at grade level by 3rd grade have better chances of attending college and successfully graduating with degrees from a four-year institution. If we interpret the “Oakland Achieves: Public Education Progress Report” according to the report published by the Annie E. Casey foundation, only half of the students in both district run and charter schools in Oakland will have a chance to attend and graduate from a four-year institution.

It is important that we recognize that reading cannot be “boring”—it can only be difficult. As parents, caregivers, and guardians, we must proactively seek literacy support for our young students, especially students between kindergarten and 2nd grade. By doing so, we increase our students’ chances for academic success in the future. There is more work that must be done to provide our Oakland students (and our Bay Area students in general) with the necessary tools for academic success. But with institutions like Super Stars Literacy Program, we can begin to piece together a picture of a better future for our students, and a world that can once again communicate effectively through the written, spoken, and interpreted word.

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Robel Espino

Robel Espino

Robel Espino is an education specialist assistant, worked as an after school instructor, and serves as a youth leader in his local church. A first-generation college graduate, Robel attended California State University, East Bay in Hayward, CA, and received a degree in English Literature. Robel is an Oakland native who received k-12 education in the cities of Oakland, San Pablo, and Richmond, CA. He is a husband, and a father of a four-year old.

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