Dedicated to San Mateo County children reading proficiently by third grade.

Inspiring Summers Registration Now Open!
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The Big Lift.


The Big Lift is a bold collective impact effort that helps San Mateo County students achieve reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

We recently completed our pilot phase, collaborating across seven San Mateo communities to support early literacy. The Big Lift is proud to announce the launch of our 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, a roadmap for the next phase of our journey.

Learn more about where we are, and stay tuned for an updated website.

Why Now?

With the completion of our 2023-26 Strategic Plan, and five years of data and feedback from our pilot phase across seven San Mateo County communities, The Big Lift is positioned to make exciting updates to the initiative.

The early childhood education field as a whole is still recovering from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts it had on families, providers, and the already-fragile early childhood infrastructure. At the same time the larger early learning landscape is changing with historic new investments in early learning, including increased funding for the California State Preschool Program and the passage of universal transitional kindergarten (UTK).

The Big Lift has a critical opportunity to chart a path for the next three years. We are evolving our program model, governance, and organizational structure to make the maximum impact on third grade reading levels in San Mateo County.

Our Leadership

Headshot of Katharine Sullivan

Katharine Sullivan
Executive Director

Headshot of Nancy Magee

Nancy Magee
County Superintendent of Schools
San Mateo County Office of Education

Headshot of Justin Mates

Justin Mates
Deputy County Executive, San Mateo County

Headshot of Kitty Lopez

Kitty Lopez
Executive Director, First 5 San Mateo County

Headshot of Dave Pine

Dave Pine
District 1 Supervisor, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors

Headshot of Mike Callagy

Mike Callagy
County Executive Officer, San Mateo County

Headshot of Noelia Corzo

Noelia Corzo
District 2 Supervisor, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors

Headshot of Marchelle Moten

Marchelle Moten
Executive Director, P-3 | Early Education, San Mateo County Office of Education

Headshot of Claire Cunningham

Claire Cunningham
Director, San Mateo County Human Services Agency

The Big Lift- Back to Home


The Big Lift initiative is led by San Mateo County, San Mateo County Libraries, and San Mateo County Office of Education with the aim of increasing third grade reading proficiency in San Mateo County through evidenced-based strategies and collaboration with community stakeholders.

San Mateo County, CA


Venture. Transform. Succeed.

We are a bold social venture working to transform early learning so that all of San Mateo County's children succeed.

the cover image for the video

All of San Mateo County behind all of our kids.

Thank you to the agencies who make this initiative possible

County of San Mateo logo
Silicon Valley Community Foundation logo
San Mateo County Office of Education logo
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Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Our Approach

Our early learning transformation is focused on four key pillars: providing high-quality preschool and summer learning, reducing absenteeism, and increasing family engagement. The Big Lift initiative starts with 2 years of high-quality preschool, followed by 3 years of “inspiring summers” programs. Family engagement initiatives support students’ literacy skills, and collaborative interventions promote the importance of school attendance.

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Key Pillars to Success

Our model includes four evidence-based key programs that work together from preschool to third grade to improve the development of San Mateo students’ reading proficiency level.

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High-Quality Preschool

Two years of high-quality preschool for children from families with limited resources.

Inspiring Summers

Evidenced-based summer learning programs enabling kids to build on academic success’.

Family Engagement

Supporting family engagement strategies that promote family-school partnering, literacy, and kindergarten readiness.


Collaborative efforts helping families understand the importance of preschool to early elementary school attendance.


3rd Grade


Serving San Mateo County Youth

The Big Lift serves 3,000 children each year in seven San Mateo County communities. Over 300 organizations and people partner with The Big Lift in supporting the children of San Mateo County to be confident and successful readers by the end of third-grade.

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High-Quality Preschool


More likely to be ready for kindergarten than kids without preschool

Inspiring Summer


Months of gained reading skills

Family Engagement


of Big Lift families read together at least four times per week



Increased days of school attendance


Big Lift children are more likely to be ready for kindergarten, gain academic skills during the summer, read more, and have fewer absences compared to children who don’t attend Big Lift programming.

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