|© Courtesy En Nuestra Lengua|
At Bach School on a recent Saturday, a teacher reads a Spanish-language picture book on grocery shopping to a group of five-year-olds. When she asks where their parents buy food, the kids shout "Meijer's!" and "Trader Joe's!"
"Muy bien," the teacher replies.
This is "En Nuestra Lengua," a free Spanish-language program for bilingual children. Its name translates as "In Our Language," but many simply call it the "Spanish School." Founded two years ago as a playgroup for children from Spanish-speaking families, it quickly morphed into an academic program with almost a hundred students from ages three to eleven.
Teresa Satterfield, who teaches Spanish at the U-M, started the school with her husband, Jose Benki, at the university's Survey Research Center. They were raising their two young sons to be bilingual by speaking and reading Spanish at home, but wanted a place where their boys could use the language with other children.
The space at Bach is donated, and the couple and other parents volunteer their time; grants cover the cost of professional teachers and supplies. Though some parents have offered to pay tuition, says Satterfield, they've kept the classes free because they want "no kind of division" between those who can and can't afford it. The students' parents include doctors, professors, and day workers, and represent a dozen countries. They share a desire for their children to master written as well as spoken Spanish and to be proud of their Latino heritage.
In Ann Arbor and throughout the country, Hispanic kids' test scores in reading and math lag behind the scores of many of their peers. Satterfield says that programs like En Nuestra Lengua can help, because studies show that children who can read and write the language they hear at home also do better in the language they speak at school.
Satterfield coordinates much of the curriculum and writes grant applications, while Benki crunches the numbers to evaluate its success. To their excitement, they've documented solid gains through twice-a-year formal testing
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