OAKLAND — An Oakland resident raises literacy rates in Oakland public schools, where standardized tests show that only about a third of students read at the classroom level.
Long before she became a teacher, principal, or founder of a nonprofit, Sabrina “Bri” Moore was hiding a secret.
“It’s like being in prison,” said Moore.
She could read sentences, but not really understand them.
“I didn’t get to the part where I was reading to learn until I was 30,” said Moore.
She was working for AT&T in sales at the time, and her manager wanted to give her a promotion.
“At one point I threw a huge tantrum and said, ‘I can’t read!'” Moore recalled. “And she said, ‘What?'”
That manager helped Moore turn a new page in her life.
“She worked with me every day after work. She bought a dictionary, a thesaurus; she taught me to read,” Moore said.
At her manager’s urging, Moore went to college — today she’s Dr. Sabrina Moore. She received her doctorate in education from Cal State East Bay.
And in 2019, Moore founded an East Oakland-based non-profit literacy organization for students of color called 3Ls for Literacy, Leadership, and Liberation.
“As long as I’m alive and kids can’t read, I’ll do this job,” she said.
Moore’s nonprofit works with about 60 students, their families, teachers and principals in four schools in the Sobrante Park neighborhood. It includes Madison Park Primary and Upper, Lodestar and Lionel Wilson.
Students attend free tutoring, virtual reading labs, and homework club for transition kindergarten to 12th grade. Saturday mornings are family reading days with their parents.
“There’s something about the magic and energy of watching kids read,” Moore explained.
She said every third through fifth grader who went through the program progressed to grade level reading in 90 days.
And six in ten of all 3Ls students are now reading at or above grade level.
Josue Payes, a third grader, worked with teachers such as Dr. Moore’s sister who is a teacher. His mother, Kenya Payes, is delighted with his progress.
“We read the Bible every night and he’s got his Bible up to par,” Payes said. “Now he can read to us instead of us, so I’m super excited about that.”
And Irene Garcia credits Dr. Moore for the big change in her third grade son, Dominic Ramos, who fell behind in virtual kindergarten early in the pandemic.
‘An angel. Great,” Garcia said of Moore.
Then, turning to her son, Garcia added, “Even if he can send a message and I can message back and knowing that he can fully understand, that’s huge for us.”
The sense of accomplishment is also huge for Dr. Moore.
Her own mother had encouraged her to love reading as a child. But she was killed before she saw the success in Dr. Moore’s adult years. Moore’s nonprofit organization, 3Ls, is a love letter to her mother.
“I think she’d say, ‘Breena, I’m so proud of you. Breena, you did it,” said Moore.
So, for teaching students literacy through 3Ls, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Dr. Sabrina Moore.
Scholarships and private donations fund 3Ls, and the paid teachers have other full-time teaching jobs.
Dr. Moore said 3Ls plans to partner with schools in Oakland’s Elmhurst neighborhood next.