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Getting an Even Start

Literacy program focuses on both parents and children

by: SHELBY CASE/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Angelina Gonzalez reads with her daughter, Adriana, in the Even Start Family Literacy program. Organizers are seeking more students, as the program enters its 10th year in Prineville.

A family literacy program is seeking more parents and children as students in Prineville.
   Now almost in its 10th year in Prineville, Even Start Family Literacy is offered at the Family Resource Center each week and is dedicated to teaching adults English, child development, parent education and parent-child communication. According to organizers, unlike other English Language Learner (ELL) classes, Even Start serves parents and their young children and makes it possible for them to learn together.
   Melissa Potter, who teaches adult basic skills and ELL classes at Central Oregon Community College, spoke of the college's relationship with Even Start, saying COCC and the High Desert ESD use grant money to put on the classes.
   "The High Desert ESD is the recipient of the grant funds and we are working hand in glove with the ESD," Potter said. The college provides adult tutors, tables, books and curriculum resources for classes.
   Despite the family literacy and ELL resources offered to Crook County families, Even Start is trying to get more students. Potter said there are currently about six children who get help, and she touched on several possible reasons for the low turnout.
   "A lot of the problem in Prineville stems from a lack of transportation," she said, adding that some families may have a problem paying for transportation to the class. Potter said Dial-A-Ride assistance is available, in which Even Start pays half of a student's bus fare and the student pays for the other 50 percent.
   "And it is a limited amount of funds that we have to do that with," she added.
   "We've had historically, problems keeping students in the classroom (in the spring) because of work in the fields," she added.
   A lot of Even Start's clientele are either referrals from current students or repeat, returning students.
   "We sometimes get students who see brochures around town," she said.
   "We do have ads on the Crestview Cable and notices that we put up at the library and the post office," Potter said, adding that notices are also put up in schools. She and others also put up flyers around town, advertising Even Start.
   The comments about the program have been promising.
   "We get really positive feedback from the students about their involvement in the program," she said.
   For example, recently there was an ELL presentation in Salem. One student of hers wrote a letter complimenting Even Start personnel, saying her first-grader is now doing well in school.
   "She credits Even Start with his advanced placement," Potter said. "It is a really useful program for the preschool component. Their parents learn so much in the classroom besides English language skills. They learn about parenting."
   For example, if a parent is having problems with her child such as nightmares, disciplinary challenges or not eating, "there is an integration of parenting skills" with ELL classes.
   But a primary focus of Even Start is promoting literacy.
   "They learn the importance of reading to their children and spending quality time with their child," Potter said. Additionally, twice a month the Crook County Bookmobile visits the Family Resource Center, allowing families to check out books.
   The instructor added that parents learn about child development and the brain, as well as pre-school and school placement for their children.