How bilingual story time helps children learn different languages

Positively KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – There are roughly 65,000 languages spoken around the world. They’re all different but share on thing in common: we all use them to communicate. Through Caminando Juntos’ bilingual story time, they’re looking to create that sense of connection for kids and families.

Ignacio Larios was born in San Diego, California, but he was raised in Mexico for most of his life.

“I attended a bilingual school, so we learned English and Spanish… about three hours of each,” Larios said.

Young Ignacio. Courtesy: Ignacio Larios

A task that wasn’t without its fair share of challenges.

“When you’re growing older, I’m definitely still learning English, you know, you’re always learning; it does come with its challenges, yeah,” Larios said.

He moved to the Sioux Falls area in 2013. Today, he’s fluent in both languages. That fluency caught the attention Director & Educational Coordinator of Caminando Juntos, April Ross.

“She told me that they offer classes – like English classes, for Hispanic immigrants that come to Sioux Falls and the nearby areas,” Larios said.

Now, he’s assistant teaching in those classes.

Ignacio with fellow teachers.

“I was so excited to go in every week and they were all excited and ready to learn,” Larios said.

Taking the mission of Caminando Juntos a step further, the ministry now hosts a weekly bilingual story time. They initially planned to do them in person, but the pandemic has them taking a virtual approach.

“We wanted to have an activity where parents could join their children in early reading and develop that love of reading from an early age,” Ross said.

The online story time practically leaps off the page as the videos aim to create an interactive experience.

“Each story has an activity that goes with it, and the children have to make something or sing a song or do a dance and they all feature either places in Latin American or famous Hispanic figures,” Ross said.

“We read a story about Ritchie Valens. He is the guy that sang, ‘La Bamba,'” Larios said.

Larios volunteered to be a teacher for one of the story time videos.

“We did a little craft for children, young children,” Larios said.

He’s says he’s hoping what he’s learned throughout his life can strike a chord with kids in similar situations.

“Even, like, I was learning about it and, I mean, I thought if I was a kid I would be thrilled to be reading all these books and pictures,” Larios said.

“The books and the activities that go with them ask the children to stop and think and reflect on different questions that relate to the story and so it is a point of conversation and connection as well,” Ross said.

“Just knowing both languages opens so many doors for them. So it’s just amazing to see that the doors will be open for them and they can help their parents. A lot of their parents are not English speakers and they build that bond,” Larios said.

Larios says that kids developing these language skills through story time will help them in future chapters of their lives. Much like how its book-ended his story as the student has now become a teacher.

Ignacio with his class.

“It’s really great to be able to pass on that knowledge, I guess,” Larios said.

So far, Caminando Juntos has released two videos. They air a new episode of bilingual story-time every Saturday. They can be found on either their Facebook or YouTube.

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