DOE now accepting IAL grant proposals; due by May 9

The Department of Education today began accepting applications for the nearly $27 million in Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program grant funds available this year to schools and non-profits seeking support for their early literacy efforts. ALA and its grassroots successfully advocated vociferously last year for Congress to support IAL at this level of funding and are doing so again for FY 2017.

Any eligible applicant seeking a grant has until May 9, 2016 to submit its proposal. DOE is expected to announce its grant awards in July. One half of the grant funds available are reserved for school libraries with the remainder open to non-profit organizations. Grants can be awarded on either a one- or two-year cycle. For more details about the application process, please see the DOE’s formal Notice published in today’s Federal Register. It should also be posted soon on the Department of Education’s own IAL page.

Glasses and a pen on top of paperwork

Photo Credit: Flazingo Photos

Re-authorized in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, IAL supports school libraries seeking to improve literacy skills for children through the 12th grade and to encourage families to read together. As DOE describes it, IAL is “designed to develop and improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through 12th grade in high-need local education agencies (LEAs) and schools…. [and] increase student achievement by using school libraries as partners to improve literacy, distributing free books to children and their families, and offering high-quality literacy activities.”

To be eligible, a school library must be considered a “high-need” Local Education Agency (LEA), meaning that at least 25 percent of its students aged 5 – 17 are from families with incomes below the poverty line (or are similarly defined by a State educational agency). A grant application must include a: program description of proposed literacy and book distribution activities; grade levels included or the ages of the target audience; and a description of how the program is supported by strong theory. Additional information, like timelines and results measurement methods, also is required. DOE also will consider programs that seek to integrate the use of technology tools, such as e-readers, in addressing literacy needs.

According to DOE, priority consideration for IAL funding is given to programs that include book distribution and childhood literacy development activities, and whose success can be demonstrated. Additional “points” in assessing competing grant proposals may be awarded to an application that meets additional program objectives. As detailed in the DOE’s Notice, there are many such additional goals, including distributing books to children who may lack age-appropriate books at home for them to take home to read with their families.

Like any federal grant program, there are lots of rules governing every aspect of the application process right down to the size of the paper applicants may use.  Be sure to see the DOE’s Notice for full details . . . and to leave lots of time to meet them all ahead of the May 9 IAL filing deadline.

About Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the assistant director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations.

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