By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A new program aimed at improving the literacy of children and their parents is about to take off on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
Stone Child College recently received a federal grant to implement the Even Start Family Literacy Program. Barbara Bacon, the program's director, said Rocky Boy was one of just nine tribal communities in the United States to receive the grant funding. She said the program will be run through the college.
Bacon said the four-year grant will initially start at $225,000 a year and decrease by 10 percent each remaining year.
"We're really fortunate. It's a very competitive grant," Bacon said.
Even Start is designed to improve the academic achievement of low-income families, especially in reading. The program, funded by federal dollars, began in 1988 and was recently reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The goal of the program is to help children reach their full potential as learners and assist parents in improving their literacy and educational skills so they can help educate their own children.
Bacon said the Even Start program in Rocky Boy has room for 24 families to participate, but the criteria for eligibility are strict. The program is open to low-income adults who are working toward a General Educational Development or GED degree and have a child attending Early Head Start, Head Start or kindergarten through second grade at Box Elder or Rocky Boy schools. The child must be living with the adult to be eligible. Teen parents are also welcome, Bacon added.
"The program gets the parents involved in the child's education, as well as working toward a GED themselves," she said.
Even Start has four components: early childhood education, adult literacy and GED preparation, parenting education, and interactive literacy activities between parents and their children. Bacon said participating families will be required to spend 25 hours a week with Even Start staff at the college, working on the program's components, each of which have a time requirement. The families will also receive a small stipend to cover costs of child care, gas and food.
Bacon said Even Start ties in with existing programs at Rocky Boy, like the Time to Read Literacy Program, which is Time Warner's volunteer literacy mentoring program. Time to Read uses resources like People magazine and Sports Illustrated to encourage literacy throughout the community.
"(Even Start) is great because it adds on to our existing programs," she said. "We're starting the program slow, but hopefully we can expand as we go along."
Bacon said the Even Start program will be a benefit to Rocky Boy, helping produce educated, productive members of the community.
"It really involves the whole family," she said. "It will get the parents involved in education and their child's school."
For more information on the Event Start program, call Bacon at 395-4875 or log on to http://www.ed.gov/programs/evenstartformula/index.html.