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“Manitas” in Motion and The SIMPLE Solution were developed with a mission to revolutionize how, why, and when children learn Spanish as a native language and English as a second language to foster a future global generation of multilingual children.

The Need

Hispanic children enter kindergarten with lower levels of school readiness than their non-Hispanic counterparts.

65-70% of Hispanic children cannot read according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 and 2005.

Children from low income families are exposed to less than a third of the amount of words per hour than children from professional families.

The cumulative language experience that children have by age three highly correlates to reading and language performance when they reach age 9-10.

A large proportion of English Language Learners in the United States are from low income families.

Fostering Language and Early Literacy in Young Dual Language Learners

It is no surprise to learn that the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States is a highly significant phenomenon for our society. Of especially great importance is the almost startlingly large presence of young Hispanics. About one-fourth of the newborns in our country are now Hispanic. Hispanics now constitute one-fifth of the nation’s young children (infants through eight-year-olds) and are projected to be a quarter of all young children in the United States by 2030. It is of great concern, then, that Hispanic children lag well behind their White counterparts, on measures of school readiness when they start kindergarten, and subsequently achieve at much lower levels in the primary grades. This pattern of lower academic achievement persists through high school and college.

It is also impossible to ignore the importance of early language exposure and enrichment and how it relates to literacy in education. A solid language foundation is the skill upon which success in all academic areas is based. Research indicates that stimulation in the first years of life is critical for linguistic and cognitive development. Studies of babies, the mind and the brain are part of a new, exciting scientific information explosion. We know that children are pre-wired for language and connections used repeatedly, become the foundation for brain organization and function throughout a child’s life. Young children are uniquely suited for learning a second language. Did you know that the human brain is hard-wired and specifically designed to support the learning of multiple languages? It’s as if the more you know, the easier it is to learn. Consequently, it comes as no surprise to find children growing up in two or more languages in many countries around the world. In fact, in many countries, this is the norm. It is of critical importance to understand brain function and why, how, and when children can successfully learn a first language and subsequent second language.

Children can now take advantage of a unique window of opportunity whereby they can acquire language skills in a first and second language, in an effortless, natural manner. This window of opportunity to acquire language naturally occurs from birth through approximately adolescence. Young learners are able to reproduce or mimic native-like pronunciation with ease states Dr. Patricia Kuhl, who has studied phonological perception in very young children. Additionally, research in this area is quite fascinating stating that children who study a foreign language young do better on enhanced performance tests in elementary school, do better on their SAT’s, show enhanced problem solving skills, spatial relationship skills, and overall enhanced communication skills.

Unfortunately, many Hispanic children entering our schools do not have access to the type of early stimulation that will allow them to develop adequate language, cognitive and social skills. These children are not only faced with the challenge of developing language and literacy skills in their native language but also need to transfer these skills to a second language. One of the most important elements for success is rich language input. There is a compelling and urgent need for our society to mount a much larger effort to expand and improve early childhood education and language exposure for Hispanics.

What is the Consensus?

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans published a report entitled “From Risk to Opportunity” in March 2003. The report found several factors influencing the gap in Hispanic children’s achievement, including:

  • Limited early language development (due to home factors such as poverty, limited parental time, resources, and education.)
  • Lack of school readiness and quality early childhood education experiences.
  • Nearly three-quarters of entering Hispanic kindergarteners have at least one risk factor (low income family, mother with low education level, single parent family.)
  • 33% of Hispanic children have two or more risk factors compared to just 6% of non-Hispanic white children.

The report also found that, to prevent later reading difficulties and to improve achievement, it is crucial for children to enter school with foundational language and pre-literacy skills. Factors that support early literacy development identified by the report:

  • Foundations for school readiness begin early in life, during infancy and toddlerhood.
  • Development of language (oral language, vocabulary, concept development, oral expression, rhyming) during infancy and toddlerhood greatly affects later achievement.
  • Evidence shows that learning words in Spanish can facilitate learning words in English, and vice versa.
  • Evidence shows that Hispanic English Language Learners make more progress when provided some form of bilingual instruction rather than full English immersion.

Optimizing Children’s School Readiness

Two Important Factors to Optimize Children’s School Readiness:

  1. A strong foundation in language development (A critically important predictor of later reading comprehension.)
  2. A strong foundation in early literacy skills Key components needed for reading readiness according to National Reading Panel.

Optimizing Children’s School Readiness:

  • Phonemic Awareness/Phonological awareness.
  • Oral Language/Speaking and Communicating.
  • Functions of Print/Print Awareness and Concepts.
  • Letter Naming/Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Book & Print Awareness/Book Knowledge and Appreciation.
  • Functions of Print/Early Writing.
  • Comprehension: Vocabulary Instruction/Extended Vocabulary and Language Development/Listening and Understanding, Speaking and Communicating.
  • Comprehension: Text Comprehension Instruction/Knowledge of Narrative/Book Knowledge and Appreciation.
  • Motivation to read.

How “Manitas” in Motion and The SIMPLE Solution Language Programs Meet The Need:

  • Multisensory approach to teaching language
  • Structured exposure to vocabulary
  • Enrichment of language
  • Exposure to second language
  • Facilitates a variety of learning styles
  • Explicit and interactive