East Texas literacy program still going strong

By Holley Nees - bio | email

DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - Even Start in Diboll is designed to break the cycle of illiteracy among low-income families, or those that are at an educational disadvantage.

It's a program available all over Texas, but the program in Diboll receives the smallest amount of funding from the state, but it's still one of the most successful.

Success stories line the wall inside the Diboll Even Start building.

"I come in to learn English and I think, in the future, I will speak perfect English," said Parent Nayeli Magdaleno.

"We are learning English," said another parent Brenda Torres.

Torres is one of many parents who come with their children to even start to learn a new language.

"The children have to grow up, right? And, when they start school, even my baby, he's 3 years old and he starts to talk to me in English.  Now, I know what he's saying, but back then. I [didn't] know," Torres said.

When she couldn't understand what her own child was saying, she knew something had to change.

"It's something people say in Mexico, if you are in the stadium, you have to play the game. Well, we are in the United States, so we have to talk, speak English," Torres said.

Now, she's playing the game and she's thrilled even to be able to talk with KTRE.

She said, "I'm so happy because I look, your face. Your face is amazing because I can communicate with other people."

People like Torres are the reason Charlotte Morris keeps the program running.

"I'm an educator by heart, not by trade, not by education. It's by heart and I believe in that," said Diboll Even Start Director Charlotte Morris.

She believed in it enough to keep the program afloat last year when they didn't have state funding.

"We're always struggling for money, we're always struggling for grants and to try to do more things for our families, but that's what goes with it. That's what drives me," Morris said.

She wants parents to learn to be their child's first teacher.

"They're a model program. The rest of the state looks to them for advice and for help," said External Evaluator for Diboll Even Start Ann Gundy.

Torres is thankful.

She said, "I understand what he's saying.  I can help him, and for me it's something great, you know."

Aside from learning together, the program also encourages parents to do activities with their children, like visit the library and go to their children's sporting events.

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