For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

ISBE working to increase literacy for children and families

More than $2.4 million in federal grants awarded to 17 educational partnerships; Money used to help high-risk, low-income families

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today announced more than $2.4 million in family literacy grants 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.

“The Even Start program is a remarkable program on many levels. We are providing quality educational opportunities and early childhood interventions for parents and children, alike,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “At the same time, we are helping the parents become better teachers for their children. By helping the whole family, we are helping each child reach their full potential.”

The Even Start grant comes from federal funding as part of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The focus of the program is to help break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving the educational opportunities of low-income families by offering a unified family literacy program for parents and children, 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. In addition, they work to assist children in reaching their full potential as learners. For example, teachers supervise and support parents as they work with their children in literacy activities, such as reading out loud, so that the parents will continue to foster their children’s literacy at home.

Since Fiscal Year 2002, more than $54.9 million in grants have been awarded to 72 programs and served more than 15,000 families. In Fiscal Year 2007 alone, 44 Even Start programs served 1,292 at-risk families, including 1,939 children and 1,352 adults. Each family was provided the support they needed to be successful in school, at work and in the local community. Many of these families had at least one parent that was unemployed and/or did not have a high school diploma or G.E.D.

The Even Start grant is made for a four-year period dependent upon sufficient funding from the federal government for future years. Thirteen of the partnerships were awarded a continuation grant, while four partnerships were awarded a new four-year grant.

The 17 partnerships receiving the Even Start grants, totaling more than $2.4 million are:

New four-year grants:

Continuation grants: