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Even Start Family Literacy

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Even Start Family Literacy Program?

The Even Start Family Literacy Program is an education program that supports family-centered educational and parenting activities that engage parents and children in a cooperative effort.  This effort is designed to empower parents to become full partners in the educational and social development of their children, thus assisting children to reach their full potential.  Eligible participants must meet the federal government’s guidelines, which include low-income parents, non-English speaking parents, parents without a state endorsed high school diploma, and/or teen parents.

Congress first authorized the Even Start Family Literacy Program in 1988 as Part B of Chapter 1 of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  Congress amended the Even Start legislation in July, 1991, when it passed the National Literacy Act (P.L. 102-73).  In 1994, Congress reauthorized Even Start as Title I, Part B of the ESEA, as amended by the Improving America’s Schools Act.  The reauthorization of the program by the Literacy Involves Families Together (LIFT) Act of 2000 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is the most recent legislation to date.

What is the intent of the legislation?

According to the legislation, the Even Start program is intended to:
…help break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving the educational opportunities of the Nation’s low-income families by integrating early childhood education, adult education or adult basic education, parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities into a unified family literacy program.  The program shall (1) be implemented through cooperative projects that build on existing community resources to create a new range of services; (2) promote achievement of the National Education Goals; and (3) assist children and adults from low-income families to achieve challenging State content standards and challenging State student performance standards.

What is the primary goal of Even Start?

Even Start’s premise is that combining adult literacy or adult basic education, parenting education, and early childhood education into a unified family literacy program offers promise for helping to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and low literacy in the nation.  The Even Start program has three related goals: 

  • To assist parents in improving their literacy or basic educational skills;
  • To assist parents in becoming full partners in educating their children; and
  • To assist children, ages birth to seven, in reaching their full potential as learners, specifically through instruction that will result in children reading on grade level by age seven.

What are the key elements of the Even Start Program?

The Even Start legislation requires a number of key elements and features to be implemented by all local projects, which includes:

  • Serving families most in need of Even Start services;
  • Providing and integrating educational activities across the three core services (adult, parenting, and early childhood education) and support services;
  • Providing services to both parents and children, in addition to providing home-based services;
  • Coordinating service delivery with other local programs;
  • Participating in the national evaluation.

What are the core services of Even Start programs in New Jersey?

Even Start’s core services consist of four components, as specified in the reauthorized legislation:

  • Adult Education and Adult Literacy/Career Training:  high-quality instructional programs to promote adult literacy, including adult basic education (ABE), adult secondary education (ASE), English as a second language (ESL), and preparation for the General Education Development (GED) certificate. 
  • Parenting Education:  high-quality instructional programs to help parents support the educational growth of their children.
  • Early Childhood Education:  developmentally appropriate educational services and scientifically-based reading activities for children designed to prepare them for success in regular school programs.
  • Parent-Child Interactive Literacy Activities:  involves a group activity, which engages the parent and child in a literacy activity, such as reading a book together and working on projects based on the book.  The group setting affords the group leader the opportunity to observe the parent and child interaction, as well as model for the parent’s proper techniques that will assist their child in the learning process.

Home-Based Education is designed to facilitate the integration of program components in order to maximize the value of program services received by each participating family and improve the literacy skills of children and their parents and communicate the message that home is a child’s first classroom just as the parent is a child’s first teacher.

Even Start projects also provide support services that are designed to facilitate the provision of core services.  Examples of support services include:  transportation, child care, health care, meals, nutrition assistance, mental health referrals, referrals for employment, counseling, child protective services, and special care for a disabled family member.  Even Start requires support services to be obtained from existing providers, whenever possible, to avoid a duplication of services.

Who is eligible to apply for an Even Start Family Literacy grant?

Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), nonprofit community-based organizations (CBOs), public agencies other than an LEA, institutions of higher education (including two- and four-year institutions), or public or private nonprofit organizations of demonstrated quality other than an LEA are eligible to apply.  The applicant is required to form a partnership with one of more LEAs and one or more of the other eligible agencies.

The partnership provision in the Even Start law strengthens the connections between schools and communities and improves a project’s ability to reach families in greatest need of services through community outreach.  The connection of a project to an LEA and a school’s resources also allows for greater ease in the continuity of family literacy services, especially when children make the transition between an early childhood education provider to a school.

What is the target population for Even Start?

The target population is low-income families with children between the ages of birth and seven, to include at least one adult with low literacy skills.  Even Start also targets those who are eligible to participate in an adult education program under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act or who are within the compulsory school attendance age range.

What is the contract period?

The fiscal year for Even Start is October 1 through September 30 of any year.