UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Campus, city expand joint literacy program

– A summer literacy program taught by University of California, Berkeley, students has been so successful that it's now a permanent program that includes nutrition and exercise components.

Project BUILD, a joint project between UC Berkeley's Cal Corps Public Service Center and officials from the city of Berkeley, involves about 60 UC Berkeley students tutoring approximately 1,000 students ranging from pre-school children to 8th graders. As part of the program, the students get free books, and pedometers to keep track of how far they walk every day.

"It's a wonderful program," said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. "It's a perfect example of how this community can come together to solve a problem."

A year ago, Bates decided to create a summer literacy program because studies have found that there is a loss of academic skills - particularly among low-income students - over the summer months. City officials enlisted the help of UC Berkeley's Cal Corps Public Service Center, which coordinates many volunteer projects in the area, and launched Project BUILD in 2004. This summer, they announced that it would become a full-time project through the city's after-school programs.

Also new this year is a "healthy habits" eating and exercise program that has been folded into the project's literacy efforts. For example, if the children go swimming, they write about it in their journals.

"It's an incredible partnership with the city," said Cal Corps Director Megan Voorhees, who helped launch the program in 2004. Cal Corps runs similar literacy programs in Richmond and Oakland.

"I've had kids come up and hug me and say 'thank you' at the book give-away," where each child gets three free books, Voorhees said.

Bates credited local businesses for helping fund the program and community agencies with providing meeting places for the children in the program. UC Berkeley provided the 60 students with tutors through Cal Corps. The tutors are paid with federal work-study funds.

Project BUILD was recently awarded the Chancellor's University/Community Partnership Award.

And the students are enthusiastic about the program, said Julie Sinai, senior aide to Mayor Bates. They've created "thermometers" or other markers to show how many books they've collectively read and how many miles they've traveled, according to their new pedometers.

"We'd love to expand," Sinai said, noting that there's a federal math work-study program the city may tap into for a similar math-themed effort.