Casa offering bilingual learning program for children

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MOLINE — Colors, shapes, discipline, nutrition and nature are just a few things kids normally learn in preschool and kindergarten.

For primarily Spanish speaking children, however, it can be difficult to learn in a classroom where only English is spoken.

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This is why Casa Guanajuato has stepped in with a new program, Casa de los Ninos, the Quad-Cities’ first all-day bilingual early childhood learning center. Casa de los Ninos will open Sept. 4 at the Casa Learning Center, 1401 16th St.

Casa Guanajuato executive director Michael Woods said Casa de los Ninos was created because nobody else was doing anything like it to help Spanish speaking children make the transition.

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Mr. Woods said schools near the new learning center have a primarily Hispanic population and that there is a “growing Latino population” in the area. Rather than trying to switch completely over to speaking English, he said the children will be encouraged to “build their bilingualism.”

Mr. Woods said statistics show that Latinos have the highest dropout rate, and that going into school not knowing English is a big factor because it causes them to get behind from the beginning, making it nearly impossible to ever catch up.

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However, the new program, which is for children between the ages of 2 and 5, isn’t just for Spanish speakers. Families of other cultures are welcome to sign up as well to help their children learn about other cultures and other languages.

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The cost will be similar to other preschools in the area, with a tiered system. The amount will depend on financial need, allowing low income families access to quality education opportunities.

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Casa de los Ninos also will make it easier for families working early or late hours by allowing drop-offs as early as 5:30 a.m. and pick-ups as late as 6 p.m.

To prepare for the new program, renovations were done to the Casa Learning Center, including new tile in classrooms, the addition of whiteboards and some new doors.

One classroom of 14 children will be for 2-year-olds, and two classrooms of 15 children each for 3- to 5-year-olds. A limit of 44 children will be accepted into the program for the first year.

Two bilingual teachers will be in each classroom, and children will be taught things such as colors and numbers and how to behave in a classroom setting.

The only difference between a traditional preschool and Casa de los Ninos is that Spanish will be spoken in addition to English, and there will be a focus on embracing cultures.

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Mr. Woods said Casa is now “serving the entire family.” Programs are now available for kids of all ages as well as adults. “We’re filling a void in our programming needs,” he said.

Donations are needed for program supplies such as cots and chairs, toys, dress-up clothes, Hula Hoops, tricycles, books in both English and Spanish, scissors, pencils, waterpaints, construction paper, smocks, musical instruments and CD/cassette players. Donations can be dropped off at the Casa Learning Center between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.

► For more information about the Casa de los Ninos program, visit casaqc.org or call (309) 736-7727.

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