2015 LITERACY HERO AWARDS
Great Valley Bookfest Awards Recipients
October 9, 2015
Each and every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things to promote literacy in our communities. With these awards, we celebrate the selfless acts of three regional heroes who champion the cause of literacy in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
2015 Award Recipients:
Ruthanne Bassett’s life reflects her love of working with children, and with the public in general, in both classroom and library settings.
She started volunteering at the Manteca Library when she attended Manteca High in the 1960s.
Although she earned a college degree in agricultural studies, she decided to pursue a career path that allowed her to share her love of books and knowledge.
For two years, she taught fourth- and sixth-grade classes at Neil Hafley School in Manteca Unified School District. She also worked as a substitute teacher at various schools in the district.
She spent 15 years working as an assistant librarian for the Stockton-San Joaquin County Library System. The first three years were at the Cesar Chavez main library in Stockton; the last twelve years at the Manteca Public Library.
“I followed my heart, and I’m glad I did, because I’ve enjoyed it,” she said of being an assistant librarian. She liked the diversity of her workplace which had her working at the reference desk, helping with setting up programs, and leading Story Time for young children.
Ruthanne is also a committee chairperson and a key volunteer at the Great Valley Bookfest in Manteca. She organizes and manages the Children’s Theater at the annual event, and she shares a wealth of knowledge with other committee members. Her contributions have helped to make the regional Bookfest a huge success.
Although Bassett retired from the library in January, she continues to enjoy the best of her academic and professional worlds. She still works part-time hours at the library, volunteering her time to maintain popular library programs that she previously provided as a paid employee.
“This library is my home,” she says matter-of-factly, by way of an explanation.
Jennifer Torres is an author, community leader, and literacy advocate who has actively influenced the development of programs for education and youth in San Joaquin County. Originally from Southern California, Jennifer has lived in Stockton for the past 10 years with her husband, David, and daughters, Alice and Soledad.
She currently works at University of the Pacific, where she coordinates the Beyond Our Gates initiative, working alongside community partners to improve early literacy across our region. She serves as a board member in numerous community organizations, including: El Concilio Council for the Spanish Speaking (a Stockton-based organization that provides a range of social services to individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley); San Joaquin A+ (a nonprofit organization that supports and enhances education by promoting collaboration among education, nonprofit, and business organizations); and the YMCA of San Joaquin County (a nonprofit organization that provides developmental, enrichment, and recreational opportunities to children).
Before joining Pacific, Jennifer worked as a reporter for The Record newspaper, covering education, diversity, children and families. During her tenure, she launched, organized, and managed the High School Journalism Awards, the newspaper’s annual contest honoring the work of outstanding high school journalists.
She continues to lead workshops for journalism students on feature writing, source development, and other key topics.
She has been honored for education and youth reporting by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and she received the Action on Behalf of Children Award from the Family Resource and Referral Center in recognition for media coverage benefiting children in San Joaquin County.
Torres is the author of “Finding the Music,” a bilingual picture book, inspired in part by the San Joaquin County community and published this spring by Lee & Low Books. Her middle-grade novel, “Stef Soto, Taco Queen,” is due out from Little, Brown in winter 2016.
Harry Bakker, an author and retired educator, spent his life championing reading, writing, and full educational access for all citizens in his community.
Originally a junior high school teacher in the Modesto City Schools, Mr. Bakker became director of Instructional Materials Center (IMC) at the Stanislaus County Office of Education in 1974. He was promoted to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in 1991, retired in 1999, and returned to work as Associate Superintendent of Educational Services for Modesto City Schools in 2000.
Mr. Bakker authored California’s Story, a fourth grade work text, published by Steck Vaughn. Additionally, he authored a Stanislaus County history unit used for many years by third grade students throughout Stanislaus County.
He served as Director of the California Instructional Video Clearinghouse from its inception in 1986 through 1991, assuming the responsibility for the evaluation of thousands of instructional videos. The Clearinghouse identified high-quality instructional videos to support California’s curriculum standards and arranged statewide duplication rights for selected titles.
Mr. Bakker was one of the authors of a half-million dollar innovative research and developmental cooperative project with Encyclopedia Britannica, a plan designed to develop a digitally interactive videodisc and CD-ROM programs for English Language Learners.
Additionally, he was a major writer of Project Riverbank, a five-year, $2,200,000 School-to-Work grant. During his tenure, Mr. Bakker’s grant-writing skills brought millions of dollars of resources to school districts in Stanislaus County.
Although he retired in 2003, Mr. Bakker continues to promote literacy as a volunteer and financial contributor.
Bakker still serves as Spelling Master for the Stanislaus County Spelling Championships, annual contests that offer enrichment and challenge for elementary and junior high students.
He continues to serve as an active board member at Learning Quest/Stanislaus Literacy Center, a nonprofit organization that provides adult literacy programs, GED preparation, prison education programs, and family literacy programs for parents who need to improve their English and want to be better able to read to their child and/or help their child with homework.
Harry and his wife, Donna Bakker, are ongoing supporters of nonprofit educational organizations, including Learning Quest programs, Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, and the American Heritage Scholarship Program.
Over the years, Bakker’s efforts have transformed public education in our region, and he continues to help individuals, families, and schools in their shared quest to create a more literate community.