Oakland woman honored for spearheading literacy program

Judy Zollman, a literacy consultant and teacher, will receive a Bay Area award for public service Wednesday, June 18 in recognition of her efforts to improve literacy in the Oakland Unified School District.

Zollman was selected to receive the Bay Area’s Jefferson Award for Public Service. She is one of more than 100 people across the country honored with the award; five of those are then selected to receive the national Jefferson Award.

The presenter of Jefferson awards in the Bay Area is KPIX-Channel 5, so Zollman’s ceremony will be broadcast during the

6 p.m. “Eyewitness News” on June 18 (with repeats during Thursday’s noon newscast and Saturday’s 7 a.m. newscast).

Zollman, who lives in Oakland, founded the People of the Book Literacy Project at Oakland’s Temple Sinai, a partnership between the synagogue and three Oakland elementary schools (Santa Fe School, Lazear School and Think College Now).

“I’m very honored to be part of the Temple Sinai community, which has supported and encouraged literacy in Oakland and the Oakland schools,” Zollman said. “This community has had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of children in Oakland, from all walks of life.”

Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin called Zollman “an inspiration.”

“Everyone at Temple Sinai is just thrilled that she is receiving the Jefferson award, and feels blessed that she is a member of our community.”

During the existence of the 10-year-old program, volunteers have read stories in the classroom, provided art and music enrichment, and donated school and art supplies. The congregation has bought microscopes for science classes, arranged author assemblies, purchased books and donated carpeting and beanbag chairs for schools’ libraries. The program has given out more than 80,000 books.

About 30 tutors meet with more than 70 students each week of the school year. Teen volunteers also provide academic support and mentoring at the after-school homework center in the Lazear School. Zollman said that the program has an extremely high retention rate, with some volunteers having been there for the program’s entire lifespan.

Zollman is also a member of the Volunteer Action Center Advisory Board for the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, and a member of the Jewish Coalition for Literacy.

As for the future, Zollman said,”We want to keep doing what we’re doing — providing books and mentors, supporting schools, but most importantly … opening up the world to [children], letting them know they’re important and valued and they can succeed.”

The Jefferson Awards have been given to citizens committed to public and community service yearly since 1972.

For more information about People of the Book Literacy Project, contact Zollman at [email protected]. To get involved, visit the program’s Web site at sinai.bigasterisk.com/literacy.htm.