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Freedom Readers Partnership

Sacramento Public Library

Innovation Summary

A grant from the California State Library partnered Sacramento Public Library with Isleton Elementary School to address child literacy. At the end of the first year 97% of the students gained at one grade level and 75% moved ahead at two grade levels.

Problem Statement

The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only 25% of 4th graders are proficient in reading. California ranks 46th among states in literacy. The Sacramento Public Library and Isleton Elementary School partnered to request a grant from the California State Library to address this issue in one rural, culturally diverse, economically challenged community and to develop a project with significant, replicable outcomes.


The Sacramento Public Library’s Isleton Branch Library, Isleton Elementary School and Wonder of Reading collaboration was a first-year catalyst for parents and their children who require reading intervention. The grant provided a reading specialist 70 lowest-performing students at the school to improve their reading skills in 45-minute sessions, three times per week. In conjunction with class work, library staff hosted class visits. With a separate $5,000 grant, the library purchased books on world cultures, followed by an 8-week “read around the world” series of class visit programs using Google Earth, crafts, foods, and Skype to learn about other lands and people of other cultures. Together, the school and library presented monthly well-attended Family Reading Nights, where family members learned how to develop their children’s literacy skills at home and received information about library resources in an effort to strengthen the link between home, library, and school. One very memorable Family Reading Night was children’s book author Matthew Gollub, with attendance of more than 160 in a town of 800 people. The success of this effort led to a successful grant application for a second year for Freedom Readers, a name has become important to both the children and to the community. Year two includes three field trips on Saturdays to provide the children and their families with new experiences – a science center, a zoo, and the Sacramento Public Library’s Central Library where, on May 19, they will witness the publication, through the Library’s I Street Press, of the book they, and their families, have been writing all year.


Assessments of reading skill and comprehension were conducted at the start, midpoint, and end of the school year. By the end of the school year, 97% of the reading program students moved ahead at least one grade level in their reading ability, 75% gained at least two grade levels, and 39% of the students were now reading at their grade level. Although the “Wonder of Reading” organization dropped public schools after the 2011 school year, the school and library leaders met and decided what they had learned through this program in year one could, by working closely together, be successfully be applied in subsequent years. A grant application for “Freedom Readers” was successful to provide funding for a program that has become vital to both the children and to the community.