Co-reading with your young child creates lasting memories and is a special bonding experience. Together, you can help prepare them for school and introduce new ideas and topics. For dual language learners and their families, however, access to good quality stories and informational books can be a challenge. Oceanhouse Media recently learned of a family literacy program in Maine that is exploring some new solutions.
Comienza en Casa| It Starts at Home was created by Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand to serve the unique needs of migrant farmworker students and parents who are enrolled in the Maine Migrant Education Program. The program works together with families of preschool and kindergarten children who primarily speak little or no English in the home. They have discovered that using our record and share feature, with the help of a skilled bi-lingual volunteer, the families are able to enjoy hearing digital stories in their home language, helping children build early literacy skills and school readiness.
Monthly meetings are held at the local elementary school. The program’s educators and the local kindergarten teacher discuss early learning topics and goals with families, and engage in a variety of hands-on educational activities. This is an opportunity for many families to participate in learning modules involving technology use as well as traditional early learning activities and enjoy resources that they may not otherwise have access to in their home environment. Topics such as the importance of speaking in the home language, using rich language and “digital media diet”/balance are also discussed. After the meeting, families are loaned iPads loaded with apps to take home and use with their children, as well as provided with a variety of activities that encourage families to read, play, and create together.
Digital reading plays an important part in the program. All of the apps have been carefully screened by educators for age-appropriateness and to align with the early literacy and learning goals for each module. Originally, the program provided and discussed written Spanish translations with families for a number of Oceanhouse Media digital book apps. With the addition of the record and share feature, it is now possible to translate and make an audio recording available in Spanish (or any other language), email the file, then open it on the iPad in the app, so that it is available as a narration choice. While the text is still in English, the children and families can hear and better understand what the story is about.
The program’s website quotes one parent as saying “The translations were useful because we don’t understand all of the words in English so first in Spanish, then in English you get the idea of what it’s trying to say.” Bonnie Blagojevic, an early childhood educational consultant for the program, really appreciated parent feedback about the importance of having the audio narration available in Spanish, making it possible to really listen to the book with their child and discuss important concepts.
Two weeks after the initial meeting, Ana Blagojevic, Migrant Education Coordinator at Mano en Mano, visits families in their homes to discuss how the various activities, some on the iPad, and other traditional early learning activities that might take place inside or outside the home, have helped their child learn educational goals for the month. It’s at these one-on-one meetings that Ana works together with parents to create an action plan for their child based on what the parent feels is a priority for his or her child to learn and focus on during the remaining two weeks.
The program is always looking for digital book apps that will allow families to experience vivid storytelling that’s filled with great content and social/emotional value. While original use of Oceanhouse Media digital books apps involved sharing written translations for stories such as A Frog Thing, Ladybug at Orchard Avenue, The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin and Leo the Lightning Bug, with the record and share feature it is now possible to hear the narration in Spanish of Red Fox at Hickory Lane. Parents of several of the children in the program shared that their children really enjoy animals and appreciated the opportunity to be able to listen and learn about foxes in Spanish.
“For families with young children that speak Spanish and/or other languages at home, there’s a limited number of apps offering really strong stories and the chance to build knowledge/understand concepts,” says Bonnie. “The record and share feature in Oceanhouse Media’s digital book apps is a wonderful example of quality resources that make apps accessible to dual language learners so that parents and children can learn together.”