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Third National Even Start Evaluation: Follow-Up Findings From the Experimental Design Study
NCEE 2005-3002
December 2004

Section Two: The Even Start Family Literacy Program

Through the mid-1900s, the nation's literacy problems were addressed by a dual system of public and private sector efforts that included remediation programs for adults in the form of adult education or workplace literacy programs, and prevention programs for children in the form of early childhood education efforts such as Head Start. The seeds of a new approach were sown in the late 1970s and early 1980s when many of the first family literacy programs were planned and implemented (Smith, 1995).

Drawing on the experiences of existing early intervention and adult literacy programs, family literacy programs are based on the beliefs that children's early learning is greatly influenced by their parents, that parents must develop and value their own literacy skills in order to support their children's educational success, and that parents are their children's first and best teachers. Family literacy programs seek to improve the literacy development of young children not only by providing early childhood education services directly to young children, but also by helping parents become more literate themselves, by helping parents understand more about how children learn, and by inculcating good teaching habits in parents. In the late 1980s this new approach emerged in full force as family literacy programs proliferated under a range of sponsors including state governments (e.g., Kentucky's PACE program), local school districts (e.g., the Marin, CA Library Family Literacy Program), private organizations (e.g., the National Center for Family Literacy), private corporations (e.g., Stride-Rite's Intergenerational Day Care program), and universities (e.g., El Paso State College's Family Intergenerational English Literacy Program). The movement attained national status in 1989 when the federal government instituted its family literacy centerpiece, the Even Start Family Literacy Program.