Education Begins in the Home (EBH),a North County San Diego nonprofit dedicated to helping improve the literacy level of children by providing them with FREE books, is celebrating its 4th Anniversary. Founded in May 2015, EBH is a volunteer driven organization led by Oceanside resident Edward Becerra. Inspired by several statistics referencing the literacy level of our youth, EBH has focused on partnering with elementary schools, encouraging children at an early age to appreciate and recognize the importance of reading. The organization is now nearing two milestones- participating in 365 community events and providing 100,000 FREE books.
EBH began when Edward, after a long career with Pacific Bell, retired and was inspired to get involved with the community. A University of California Riverside alumnus with a double major in Economics and Sociology, he began working for the County of San Diego as a Child Protective Services (CPS) Social Worker. In this capacity, he first became aware of low reading levels. Seeking ways to help, Marjorie Pierce, Oceanside’s Director of Neighborhood Services, suggested providing books to children. She shared that the City of Oceanside had begun providing new books to the registered children of the city’s three resource centers during holiday celebrations in response to a 2013 HUD notice stating cities were not providing enough educational outreach. Determined to help, Edward spoke with several people regarding sourcing books to give away. Gayle Wells, head volunteer for the Friends of the Oceanside Library, agreed to provide ongoing support and has provided a minimum of 10 boxes of books monthly to EBH. Since those early days, other libraries and civic groups have followed suit.
Initially providing books at community events, Edward recognized the need to get involved with schools. EBH’s involvement with schools fast tracked after meeting with Kiki Bispo and her team of Family & Community Liaisons (FACE) a Vista Unified School District (VUSD) group. At the meeting, he told them that EBH was the best kept educational secret in Vista. Approximately a year later, Edward met with the 25 Escondido Family & Community Liaison Teams sharing the same type of news. Soon thereafter, EBH was participating with many of the VUSD and EUSD schools. Next, Edward joined the Oceanside Promise group, an OUSD group committed to ensure that 90% of the students in Oceanside would graduate and be college or career ready.
Word of EBH’s efforts quickly spread and many of the Oceanside schools invited EBH to participate at their events. It was at that time that Lisa Montes, a Mira Costa College Administrator, introduced Edward to Kirk Whisler, the CEO of Latino Literacy Now (LLN), a non profit promoting literacy. Recognizing several common efforts, EBH joined LLN in June 2016 and Ed now serves on the organization’s Board of Directors.
Since then, countless community partners have helped EBH expand their efforts exponentially including Route 78 Rotary and the Blue Wave Kiwanis, both of which Edward is a member. Very early in the effort to put books in the hands of children, Joe Zuniga, owner of Decorative Services, a print company in Oceanside suggested putting labels on books so that people would know they came from the organization’s efforts. He offered to donate their services by printing labels and business cards. Volunteerism also increased when Missy Ferguson, a youth group leader from North Coast Church, offered assistance gathering volunteers to help sort and label books. With the support of Pastor Connor and Community Liaison, Mary Bishop, North Coast Church has provided volunteers since May 2017 encouraging their members to sign up on the Church’s website. Now, volunteers help every month sorting donated books into age groups- O S (pre-K/K age), 6-10 (elementary school), 11-15 (middle school) and 16+ (high school to adult).
In February 2018, at the request of Oceanside’s Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, Edward presented his program to the City Council, providing them a 10 minute overview of his efforts. Immediately following the presentation, Tania Thorne, a Cal State Fullerton journalism student and Oceanside resident approached him about doing a story in the campus newspaper. In addition, EBH was covered in the May/June issue of Osider Magazine and was also covered on KOCT’s Community non-profit groups’ coverage last year.
When questioned about what comes next, Edward shares four goals- 1} providing even more FREE books to the students and families of North County by participating in more community and elementary school events, 2) finding more volunteers willing to lend their time to positively impact the educational efforts of the community, 3) acquiring a storage/office space for the many donated books he’s collected, and 4) identifying ongoing philanthropic support and in kind book donations to help with EBH’s efforts.
To help draw more awareness to these goals, EBH has partnered with Mira Costa College on several events over the last three years. EBH is currently working with the college and Latino Literacy Now on putting together the 3rd annual Latino Book & Family Festival which will be held on September 28, 2019 at the Oceanside Mira Costa campus. The event is supported by eight local libraries and hundreds of authors belonging to the International Latino Book Awards program, another program under Latino Literacy Now. The festival is committed to providing the citizens of North County with educational, health and financial literacy tools. Why does he do all of this? Edward shares that he tells parents that “reading is the key to success in school, and that school is the key to success in life!”
To learn more about Education Begins in the Home, visit their website www.openabook. org or their Facebook page “EducationBeginsinthe”. For those interested in getting more involved and/or sponsorship information on the Mira Costa College Latino Book & Family Festival, please contact Edward at (760) 681-9950.