Even Start

Current Section  Purpose
 Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Home
Archived Information

Program Office: Office of Early Learning

CFDA Number: 84.213
Program Type: Formula Grants
Also Known As: Even Start Family Literacy Program, William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy Program


This program offers grants to support local family literacy projects that integrate early childhood education, adult literacy (adult basic and secondary-level education and instruction for English language learners), parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities for low-income families with parents who are eligible for services under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and their children from birth through age 7. Teen parents and their children from birth through age 7 also are eligible. All participating families must be those most in need of program services.

Five percent of the annual appropriation is set aside for family literacy grants for migratory worker families, the outlying areas, and Indian tribes and tribal organizations. In addition, the Department must award one project in a women's prison. Up to 3 percent is reserved for national evaluation and technical assistance. The remaining federal funds are allocated by formula to SEAs, based on their relative shares of Title I, Part A, funds. SEAs make competitive subgrants to partnerships of LEAs and other organizations, giving priority to proposals that primarily target areas with large numbers of most-in-need families or to projects located in empowerment zones or enterprise communities. The statute also requires that subgrants be equitably distributed among urban and rural areas and that local projects assume an increasing share of program costs each year. The increasing share of the program expenses ranges from 10 percent in the first year to 40 percent in the fourth year. Cost-sharing for years five through eight is 50 percent, and, after the eighth year of federal Even Start funding, cost share is at least 65 percent.


Projects provide for early childhood education, adult literacy (adult basic and secondary-level education and instruction for English language learners), parenting education, and interactive parent-child literacy activities for participating families, often through other entities providing these services, such as government agencies, colleges and universities, public schools, Head Start programs, and other public and private community-based groups.

Projects operate year-round and provide staff training and support services, such as child care and transportation, when unavailable from other sources, to enable participation in core education activities.

Additional Information

Even Start is an education program for the Nation's low-income families that is designed to improve the academic achievement of young children and their parents, especially in the area of reading. Even Start offers promise for helping to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and low literacy in the Nation by combining four core components which make up family literacy:

  • early childhood education
  • adult literacy (adult basic and secondary-level education and/or instruction for English language learners)
  • parenting education
  • interactive literacy activities between parents and their children.

Even Start supports family literacy services for parents with low literacy skills or who have limited English proficienty, and their children, primarily birth through age seven, and has three related goals:

  • to help parents improve their literacy or basic educational skills;
  • to help parents become full partners in educating their children; and
  • to assist children in reaching their full potential as learners.

Legislative Authority

The Even Start Family Literacy Program -- Title I, Part B, Subpart 3 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) - was first authorized in 1988 with an appropriation of $14.8 million. The program became State administered in 1992 when the appropriation exceeded $50 million. Most recently, the program was reauthorized by the Literacy Involves Families Together (LIFT) Act of 2000 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Last Modified: 04/09/2014