Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Pre-K Kids at St. Bede, St. Richard, St. Nick's to Learn Spanish This Fall

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Three Southwest Side Catholic schools will participate in a pilot
program next fall, the Early Childhood Language Intensive Preschool.  ECLIP will offer intensive daily core studies instruction in Spanish, Polish or Mandarin Chinese to pre-kindergarten students.

St. Bede the Venerable, 4440 W. 83rd St; St. Richard, 5025 S. Kenneth; and St. Nicholas of Tolentine, 3741 W. 62nd St., are among those participating. They will offer instruction in Spanish.

The initiative is a partnership between the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame.

Learning two languages at a young age builds a strong foundation for students raised in non-English-speaking households and provides an excellent opportunity for those from English-speaking homes to learn about other cultures.

“There is solid research indicating when you reach students at the Pre-K level with multilingual instruction, it tends to stay with them in later years,” said Dr. Katy Lichon, director of Catholic School Advantage and English as a New Language at Notre Dame. “Moreover, the stronger you are in your first language, such as Spanish, the stronger you’ll be in learning a second or third language.”

The other schools offering 30 minutes to an hour of daily core lessons in Spanish are Annunciata, St. Bartholomew, St. Mary of the Angels; Our Lady of Guadalupe and Pope John XXIII. St. Therese will offer a curriculum in Mandarin Chinese, and St. Zachary will provide instruction in Polish. Teachers at all 10 schools will train on the new curriculum this summer with assistance from Notre Dame.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help our youngest students learn great language skills, and great openness to other cultures and races,” said Fr. John Waiss, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish.

The program is drawing interest from parents previously reluctant to enroll their children in preschool because of the pandemic.

Dr. Molly Cinnamon, principal at Pope John XXIII, said the program provides the opportunity to attract Spanish-speaking families who might not have seen her school as an option.

“We think this will allow Pope John XXIII to be more inclusive of our parish families, many of whom are from Spanish-speaking households,” Cinnamon said. “Our preschool students will get 30 minutes of instruction a day in core subjects such as math and reading in Spanish. Getting to our kids at the age of 3 or 4, bridges an important connection to their homes. They will hold onto their native language longer and will have the foundation to build literacy, so they can not only speak in their first language but read and write in it along with English.”

“The Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools began working with Notre Dame in fall, 2020 to develop this curriculum, which we intend to expand to other schools in future years along with scaling up dual-language instruction at other grade levels,” said Erika Gallardo, Hispanic Engagement and Outreach Manager at the archdiocese. “Many other schools are showing interest in incorporating the curriculum in the future.”

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