Stockton-San Joaquin County, California
The GLR Campaign and National Civic League recognize Stockton-San Joaquin County, California, as a 2017 finalist for the All-America City Awards. Having previously won the AAC Award twice, Stockton-San Joaquin County is cited for reporting measurable progress in school attendance and overall grade-level reading for children from low-income families, as well as for exemplary efforts in promoting civic engagement and inclusiveness. In 2012, just after the City of Stockton declared bankruptcy, the University of the Pacific and a coalition of 50 community partners from the education, business, health, government, nonprofit, arts, faith, law-enforcement and media sectors launched the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third campaign. The coalition has implemented a variety of creative strategies and programs. For example, in collaboration with First 5, the coalition has hosted special trainings — and provided mini-grant funding — for Black faith communities interested in supporting early literacy through story times, messages from the pulpit and other measures. The coalition has supported Stockton’s Pride Festival, distributing inclusive children’s books — with stickers and bookmarks offering literacy tips — to hundreds of participants. Volunteer readers visit housing authority sites to lead story times and craft activities. In the summer of 2015, the local public transportation agency, San Joaquin Regional Transit District, launched Books on Buses, placing capsule libraries of high-quality children’s books on previously underused luggage racks. Children and families can borrow books to read together on one bus trip (where they might also notice literacy-promoting bus ads), and return them on the next. Countywide efforts to raise awareness of attendance-related issues has led to a reduction of chronic absenteeism from 9 percent to 6.9 percent. Similarly, the number of low-income third graders who were reading at grade level increased from 20 percent in 2015 to 23 percent in 2016.