Engage San Francisco Literacy

Through multiple partnerships with SFUSD and community-based organizations we have grown an intentional year-round literacy support project for Western Addition children and their families.

School Year Literacy Programs

The school year Engage San Francisco Literacy program prepares and supports USF students to be highly trained and engaged reading tutors. We educate USF students with knowledge of teaching and learning to read, adverse childhood events, community history in the Fillmore/Western Addition, and educational equity as a lifelong disposition.

The program operates through our partnership with two San Francisco public schools – Rosa Parks Elementary School and Cobb Elementary – and three after-school programs – Booker T. Washington Community Center, Magic Zone, and Prince Hall Learning Center. 

Participating tutors who are new employees enroll in a one-credit course during their first semester, which focuses on developing their tutoring skills and capacities. Returning tutors who have worked more than two semesters participate in bi-monthly leadership meetings facilitated by the Engage San Francisco Literacy Program Manager. For more information, contact Dresden Smith at djsmith@usfca.edu.

Summer Literacy Programs

In collaboration with the Schools of the Sacred Heart and Mo’Magic Collaborative, the Heart to Heart program supports the youth of the Western Addition in grades K-5 to prevent summer learning loss. 

In addition to supporting San Francisco youth, the Heart to Heart program allows Masters of Arts in Teaching Reading (MATR) candidates with work and learning opportunities beyond the classroom, encouraging USF students to bring their education to practice and develop their cultural competency. Candidates are responsible for planning community-building and literacy activities for their classroom, assessing students in reading, and targeting instruction to incorporate student strengths and meet student needs and interests. 

Launched in 2004 and housed in the USF School of Education under the leadership of Professor Helen Maniates, Director of the Masters in Teaching Reading Program, the Summer Reading Program is designed and implemented in partnership with USF students and community-based organization staff. 

Visit the School of Education website to learn more about the research and impact of the summer reading program. To discover more about MATR and the Heart to Heart program, contact Professor Maniates at hmaniates@usfca.edu.

Our Approach to Literacy

Literacy encompasses multiple forms of using language. We address summer learning loss in reading by improving students’ ability to self-monitor their understanding of text, employ strategies to focus on meaning-making, and develop greater stamina to engage with longer, more complex texts for longer periods of time. We develop students’ information literacy, to assess bias and reliability, separate facts from fraud, and use information to create knowledge and solve problems. Finally, we build students’ computer literacy, particularly their ability to code and create apps, webpages, games, and virtual worlds. 

Identity is about helping middle school youth develop as readers, future college-goers, and members of the tech workforce. Students build their identities as readers by finding their passions for various authors and genres of text.  By demystifying life on a college campus, we help students see themselves with a future in higher education. Students connect their passions and interests to potential areas of study in college. We address stereotype threat and work to build self-confidence in students’ identity as learners with a growth mindset, seeing themselves not as “smart” or “not smart” but as capable of learning when they put their energy towards that end.  The tech portion of the program helps students understand their multiple identities – racial, national, gender – and how the tech workplace presents challenges and opportunities for those identities. They see role models in tech sharing identities similar to their own. Middle school is a key time when young people begin to make plans for college and careers.

Equity is about making sure that literacy achievement, college attendance, and skills with technology are not dependent on unrelated factors like students’ race or parents’ income.  We seek equity so that colleges and workplaces reflect the diversity of communities we serve. We seek equity because academic and technical talent are distributed throughout the population regardless of race, income, and gender, and we need all that talent for the health of our community and planet.