Campus: Sonoma State University -- November, 2005

SSU Center Earns $15 Million Grant for National Family Literacy Program

The California Institute on Human Services at Sonoma State University has been awarded a nationwide Family Literacy Program grant to assist families whose children live below the poverty line.

The $15 million, five-year grant awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start Bureau, establishes the Head Start National Family Literacy Training and Technical Assistance Center at Sonoma State University.

The services and products developed by the center will be available to all 2,689 Head Start and Early Head Start programs nationwide, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Head Start staff and parents will receive training, technical assistance, information, and strategies for promoting early language and literacy in children from birth to five years.

The new program will be directed by CIHS project manager Dr. Joanne Knapp-Philo and employ Sonoma State early childhood education, family literacy, and distance learning experts.

The specific goals of family literacy for Head Start are to improve parent-child interactive reading, reinforce parents as their children's first and primary teacher, help parents realize their own literacy goals, and improve school readiness for young children, including children with special needs.

This center will develop specialized family literacy training curricula and Web-based training tools and will provide information analysis, materials distribution, and resource and referral services to help Head Start and Early Head Start programs improve their family literacy services.

CIHS director, Tony Apolloni, says Sonoma State can make a valuable contribution toward closing the education gap in America.

"Providing teachers and parents with the skills to help young children learn and develop language and literacy is vitally important, as children whose families live in poverty are 51 percent behind in literacy skills by the age of three, and they tend to stay behind throughout their school careers."

Founded at Sonoma State University in 1979 by Apolloni, CIHS uses research findings to solve real- world problems. Under the direction of Apolloni and Managing Director, George Triest, CIHS has successfully completed over $150 million in mostly state and federal grants and contracts in the areas of early childhood education, K-12 education, special education, rehabilitation and disability services, Medicare reform, community service and child abuse prevention.

The Family Literacy Program joins CIHS's on-going Hilton Early Head Start Training Program as a major program at Sonoma State funded by the Head Start Bureau.

CIHS at Sonoma State also operates California's Child Abuse Training and Technical Assistance Center and administers the California's Services for Technical Assistance and Training in Special Education.

For more information, contact Joanne Knapp-Philo, 805-388-5634 or visit online

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