Last Friday, a childhood friend sent me this facebook message:
Our school board just made the decision on Monday to cut the K-5 Spanish program at our school. I am very much against it and would like to write a letter to voice my opinion. I know you are passionate about this subject so I was wondering if you could share any resources that I could read through in an attempt to educate myself on the multiple benefits that come from leaning a language, particularly in the early years. I want to make sure that I touch on all the high points in my letter.
Of course I said yes and I immediately tweeted to @PreKlanguages to see if she had any tips. This is what she recommended:
Awesome!! Thank you so much for all the info. I have some reading to do before I write my letter. I am part of a mom’s club here in the school district that is comprised of about 50 moms. We are all going to write letters. And talk to all our friends too. I like the idea of a petition. I will definitely keep you informed. For now, it looks like they axed the program but I’m hoping that they reconsider. I think it’s oh-so- important!!
I also sent her this reply I had compiled for an interview. I was recently questioned by a doctoral student of a professor I know about my thoughts on early language learning. The question was: How do you think students benefit from second language instruction at the elementary level?
My response was:
I believe that through the proper implementation of early World Language instruction, students will:
*gain higher literacy skills in their native tongues
*have improved standardized test scores in ELA and possibly other areas as well
*gain multicultural awareness through the cultural component of language learning
*have a greater opportunity for proficiency at near native levels
*have greater opportunities as adults in our globalized world when they will be entering the workforce as bilinguals (studying a language from K-12 and beyond would make this a reality)
From the resources above, my friend came up with this letter, which you can download and edit for you own advocacy purposes by clicking here. You can choose to “download as” by clicking on the “File” button underneath the title.
Re: K-5 Spanish Program
As a parent of a kindergartner and a preschooler in the _______school district, I urge you to please reconsider your decision to eliminate the K-5 Spanish Program for the 2013-14 school year. My daughter loves her Spanish class and it is not uncommon for her to incorporate at least 1-2 new words into her vocabulary each week. She isn’t one to jump off the bus and start gushing about the details of her day. But one constant that I have discovered is that when asked what she is learning in Spanish, I don’t just get a one word response. She gives me details! There is an enthusiasm in her voice when she tells me that this week she learned the Spanish word for bathroom. “It’s “baño”, Momma”! This eagerness for learning is something to be treasured and nurtured by me, as her parent and also by you, as her educators. I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to cut this program.
Continued research shows that the proper implementation of early language instruction provides numerous benefits to our children and our community. Learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth and enriches and enhances a child’s mental development; leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language and a better ear for listening; improves a child’s understanding of his/her native language; gives a child the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know; opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries; gives a student a head start in language requirements for college; and increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset. (Center for Applied Linguistics).
Right or wrong, we are living in an age when much emphasis is being placed on test scores. It seems to me that we as a school district, should embrace early language learning as a proven vehicle “to increase listening ability, memory, creativity and critical thinking – all of which are thinking processes that increase learning in general” (Dr. Mary Lynn Redmond, Wake Forest University) and will, in turn, improve standardized test scores. Our Spanish program sets our district apart and should be promoted and fostered as a tool to better prepare our children for the ever-changing, globalized world of the present and future.
Thank you for your consideration.
My hope is that some day there will no longer be a need for such letters…that the United States will awaken to the benefits of second language instruction that goes from Kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond! 🙂