Garfield County’s Even Start Family Literacy Program prepares kids, parents for kindergarten |

Garfield County’s Even Start Family Literacy Program prepares kids, parents for kindergarten

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler/Post IndependentEven Start employee Heidi Nunez sits inside of the Aspen Community Foundation on Wednesday afternoon. Even Start is a literacy outreach program that serves Garfield County.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Being an instructor for Even Start’s Bi-lingual Preschool Program, Heidi Nunez knows firsthand the impact the Even Start Family Literacy Program has in Garfield County.

Nunez has also seen the benefits as a parent, as well.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Nunez said. “My son is now in second grade and I believe because of this program and Raising a Reader, my son is at the level he is. He has never had to struggle with reading, math or the social aspect of school.”

While Even Start focuses on literacy for both English- and Spanish-speaking students, it’s impact is so much more, according to program director Ellen Klement.

“Our mission is to enhance family literacy skills,” said Klement.

For 2007-08, Even Start has helped 64 families in four classrooms in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle. The program started 12 years ago, under the wing of Colorado Mountain College, the Roaring Fork School District and Garfield School District Re-2.

While most might think that Even Start’s bilingual preschool education is the single aspect of the program, their parent education and adult education programs are a big part of what it accomplishes, too.

“The parents are learning how to educate their child, and the child is learning how to re-enforce what they’ve learned,” Nunez said. “Plus, we are teaching the Hispanic community not only how to integrate into an English-speaking situation, but how their children’s kindergarten day is going to go.”

The program is about integration as much as it is about literacy. Even Start also helps teach students about classroom structure and what is expected of them when they go to kindergarten, and social aspects like how to share and how to wait their turn or wait in line.

“We teach these things so that when they get to kindergarten, the teachers don’t have to,” Nunez said.

Knowing social aspects of what is expected of them in the classroom along with knowing the alphabet and how to spell their name makes for a more focused lesson plan for kindergarten teachers, too.

“I think it’s a better situation for the kindergarten teachers as well, because they are not having to teach every student all these things,” Nunez said. “There are a lot of people who think that it’s the teacher who will teach them how to stand in line and how to share, but oftentimes it’s not the way it is.”

Emphasis on parental education is a key to the success of Even Start students. Nunez said that Even Start teaches parents that just 20 minutes of reading each night with their kids, dramatically increases the student’s reading ability. And that aspect really hits home with Nunez.

“I’ve seen some of these kids who are really going to fly when they get into kindergarten,” Nunez said. “They are going to be at the top of the class, they won’t have the problem of, ‘I’ve got to learn my alphabet.’ They are not going to have to wait for the teacher to show them those things, they are going to be off and running.”

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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