For Immediate Release 
June 15, 2009

ISBE Promotes Literacy for Young Children and Families

More than $2.5 million in federal grants awarded to 17 educational partnerships; Money helps high-risk, low-income families

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today announced more than $2.5 million in family literacy grants are being awarded to 17 educational partnerships involving school districts, regional offices of education, higher education institutions and community organizations around the state. The Illinois Even Start Family Literacy Program grants are designed to help the state’s earliest learners, as well as their families, improve literacy skills.

“This program reaches children at a critical age while also helping their parents improve their own basic educational skills,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “Perhaps best of all, it helps parents learn how to become full partners in their children’s educational experience. This has the potential of creating new learning and parenting habits that could be passed on from one generation to the next.’’

The federally-funded Even Start grant is part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and aims to improve the academic achievement of young children and their parents, especially in the area of reading. For example, teachers supervise and support parents as they work with their children in literacy activities, such as reading aloud, so that parents will continue to foster their children’s literacy at home.

The Even Start Family Literacy Program grants are designed to help break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving the educational opportunities of low-income families through the integration of early childhood education, adult literacy, parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities into a unified family literacy program for parents and children, primarily from birth through age 7.

Locally, school districts and regional offices of education partner with community organizations, community colleges or local libraries to help parents improve their literacy or basic educational skills and help parents become full partners in educating their children.

 Since Fiscal Year 2002, more than $57.5 million in grants have been awarded to programs that have served more than 15,600 families. In Fiscal Year 2008 alone, through 33 Even Start programs, 951 at-risk families, which included 1,345 children and 980 adults, received services and support to be successful in school, at work, and in their communities. At-risk factors for these families include:

The Even Start grant is made for a four-year period, dependent upon sufficient funding from the federal government for future years. A total of 36 proposals were submitted in response to the competitive Request for Proposals. Thirteen of the partnerships were awarded a new four-year grant through the competitive process, while four partnerships were awarded a continuation grant.

The 17 partnerships receiving the Even Start grants, totaling more than $2.5 million are: