June 26, 2008


Mayor Bates to Kick-Off 5th Annual Reading and Health Program for 1,000 Low-Income Berkeley Kids

On June 26 city officials, hundreds of kids, the Prescott Circus, and Clifford, the Big Red Dog, will kick off ‘Project BUILD’– a city-wide summer program that is a national model in combating literacy skills loss.

Berkeley, CA – In a major effort to improve literacy, nutrition, and physical activity among Berkeley’s kids, Mayor Tom Bates, the University of California’s Cal Corp Public Service Center, and the City of Berkeley are launching the 5th Annual Project BUILD – Building Healthy Minds and Bodies summer program.

Project BUILD provides literacy tutoring, physical fitness opportunities, and a free book to approximately 1,000 young people. 

UC Berkeley’s Cal Corp Public Service Center hired 70 Cal students through the America Reads Federal Work Study program to work with students in kindergarten through 8th grade.  Rick McCallum, a Literacy Specialist and professor at UC-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, trained the tutors on literacy tutoring methods, and physical activity specialists from the City of Berkeley Public Health Department provided training to help tutors incorporate fitness and health into activities.

“Project BUILD is a wonderful program that provides nearly 1,000 low-income children with the opportunity to read, learn, and be active over the summer,” said Mayor Tom Bates, who created the program in 2004. “We are helping these kids maintain their literacy skills at a time when they are most and risk, while also promoting healthy eating and exercise habits.”

The Project is a city-wide response to research documenting the loss of literacy skills over the summer, particularly for low-income students.  According to literacy researchers, low-income youth experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of over two months.  In contrast, middle-income students slightly improve their reading performance over summer.  The impact of skills loss accumulates over time so that by the 5th grade, low-income students are close to two years behind their peers from wealthier families.

The experience of tutors indicates that summer can be an ideal time to help youth build a real love of reading.  Maria Lopez, a UC-Berkeley student working with Project BUILD at BAHIA, reports “As tutors we’ve been reading with the kids in groups and one-on-one.  Because they’re not in school, reading can be more playful and engaging for the kids.  They focus on the story as fun, not work, and they can let their imaginations go.”

Project BUILD is operating at ten school-age summer programs: three city recreation centers (James Kenny, Francis Albrier and Live Oak), the Young Adult Project, three school-age non-profit summer programs (BAHIA School-age Program, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, RISE, South Berkeley YMCA, and M3), and a school district summer program at Rosa Parks.  All programs are counting the number of books Project BUILD youth read, and partnering with local libraries to organize reading days.

Funding for Project BUILD – Building Healthy Minds and Bodies comes from private businesses including: AT&T, Bayer, Berkeley, PG&E, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Wells Fargo Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Berkeley Public Education Foundation, Scholastic Books, and Children’s Book Press.  In addition, Project BUILD receives $255,000 in federal Work Study funding to pay the UC literacy tutors.

A kick-off event with 400 children will take place at 11:00 on June 26th at James Kenney Park in Berkeley.

WHO: Mayor Tom Bates and other city officials, UC Associate Chancellor Linda Williams and Dean Jonathon Poullard, UC Berkeley student tutors, The Prescott Circus, youth circus performers, Hundreds of Berkeley children, Clifford the Big Red Dog, 10 Summer Programs

WHAT: Launch of Project BUILD – Building Healthy Minds and Bodies

WHERE: James Kenney Park, 8th Street and Delaware, Berkeley

WHEN: Thursday, June 26th, 11am-1pm, Activities from 11am-noon;

Opening statements at 12:30pm, followed by a free book distribution for participating youth.

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