Focus on kindergarten through third grade literacy has long-term impact
Moved by the ramifications of children’s inability to read at grade level by third grade, Kansas City civic leader and dedicated education donor, Bert Berkley, has established an endowed fund of $50,000 to support the Bert Berkley Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Literacy at UMKC.
The fund will provide scholarships to individuals and awards to teachers, school administrators and organizations within the field of childhood literacy, and specifically phonics, to encourage and recognize progress in this area. The UMKC School of Education will recognize recipients at the Urban Education Forum.
Berkley is committed to early childhood education and the scientific approaches to the study of literacy, including the use of phonics.
“I’ve had a particular focus on the importance of reading skills,” Berkley says. “We have many challenges in reading at grade level here in Kansas City as well as nationally. The School of Education at UMKC does an outstanding job of training teachers for the urban classroom. My motivation for the creation of this endowment is that my late wife, Joan, and I have always believed that the power of education is what provides opportunity for young people.”
Recipients of the award will demonstrate long-term dedication to teaching reading to students in kindergarten through third grade, achieve significant progress in student reading levels and make effective use of research-based instruction methodologies of teaching reading including the use of phonics.
“Bert has been tireless in his support of literacy for children in early education,” Carolyn Barber, interim dean of the School of Education says. “In creating this award, the UMKC School of Education joins with Bert in recognizing outstanding achievement in the field of early childhood literacy.”
Establishing strong reading skills by third grade is a determining factor in long-term academic success.
“An abundance of research has affirmed the critical importance of early reading achievement,” Nora Peterman, assistant professor of language and literacy, says. “Third-grade reading proficiency is one of the most powerful predictors of a child’s continued academic success and of graduating from high school. Educational equity can only be realized when all students have access to excellent, effective literacy instruction in schools.”
Berkley is a previous recipient of the Hugh J. Zimmer Award for Excellence in Urban Education. The award recognizes urban educators and urban education supporters from the region who are following the example of passion and commitment to urban young people and their communities set by former UMKC Trustee and UMKC Foundation board member Hugh Zimmer. The Zimmer Award is also announced at the Urban Education Forum.
“We are fortunate that the UMKC School of Education has such a stalwart supporter in Bert Berkley,” Mauli Agrawal, chancellor of UMKC says. “His impact on the quality of education in Kansas City is immeasurable. We are honored that he has established this critically important award at UMKC.”
A former chair of the UMKC Board of Trustees and recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal, Berkley is the founder of the Local Investment Commission (LINC) , which has nothing to do with stocks and bonds, but everything to do with investing in children and families. LINC provides social services to those in need, including thousands of children. He is a decorated veteran of World War II and Korea, graduated from both Duke University and Harvard Business School and served on many local and national boards.