Valuing Low Income Kindergartners Knowledge
I have been posting a lot about Books del Sur's 100 Books 4K program and it is articles like this, "This Is How Behind Low-Income Children Can Be When They Enter Kindergarten" from the Huffington Post that are the motivation behind such a program. The article references Sesame Workshop's analysis of a Department of Education study. Their analysis identifies four risk factors that impact the abilities of kindergarten students. One of the risk factors is - the child lived in a home where English was not the primary spoken language. It is so disappointing that this is described as a risk factor. I am a bilingual white female and NEVER in my life has anyone ever said to me, "Oh, you speak two languages - what a bummer."
In fact, it is always quite the opposite; however, our society continues to devalue children for having two languages. A simple example of how our schools measure a student's knowledge in kindergarten goes something like this. A student knows 4 colors in a language other than English and 4 different colors in English; he/she is labeled as knowing 4 colors when in reality they know 8. (Unless of course you have teachers like the many great ones I work with that count the students colors in either language :)
Programs like Libros a Casa home literacy programs in students "home" language promote growth in key concepts and vocabulary and therefore prepare our young children for school. However, articles like this remind me that even though preschool literacy in children's first language can help students - we also need to change our monolinguistic system so that student's knowledge is valued. Solutions like dual language programs exist in our country and I'm ready for US to embrace them!