Story time helps children learn a second language in Summit County |

Story time helps children learn a second language in Summit County

Special to the Daily

When children are introduced to a second language at an early age, experts say, it tends to have a positive effect on intellectual growth. In order to expose Summit County children and their parents to a second language – and embrace the diversity of the county – the Family and Intercultural Resource Center has been hosting a bilingual story time once a month for the past year.

The story times are held the first Monday of each month at the North Branch library in Silverthorne. FIRC’s press release about the program says the organization believes learning a second language at an early age has numerous benefits. A better ear for listening, flexibility in thinking, an improved understanding of the child’s native language and increased job opportunities as an adult are all listed as advantages.

“Our goal is to expose children to a second language by creating a natural and fun opportunity that is not forced or artificial,” said FIRC’s Families United program manager Pati Cruz. “At the same time we support early literacy skills, promote language and social development.”

Books and activities for each month are chosen in collaboration with the library, and target children ages 12 months to 5 years. Each page of the books is read twice; once in Spanish and once in English. After the reading, children participate in an activity and question session. After last month’s reading of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” the children were given cloth cutouts of items the caterpillar consumed, and then asked about them in both languages.

“We make the story time interactive with fun activities, movement, and tie in a craft that goes along with the book for the month,” said Cruz. “We alternate the reading from one language to the other, and our readers are native speakers of each language.”

Anita Overmyer, FIRC’s development and volunteer director, said benefits from the program extend to the children’s parents.

“This is making me as a parent want to learn Spanish,” one parent said.

Overmyer said FIRC is always looking for ways to provide educational and free activities to the public. The story time was started by FIRC’s Families United program – which provides assistance to families through education, actives and home visitation -to introduce families to a second language.

“At FIRC we work with many English and non-English speaking families and we saw a need to give more opportunities to bring all families together through sharing language,” Cruz said. “Living in our diverse community, parents need a space where they could expose their children to a second language and the opportunity to socialize with our diverse community.”

The next bilingual story time is Monday, Feb. 7 from 10-11 a.m. at the Silverthorne Library. “De la cabeza a los pies (from head to toe)” by Eric Carle will be read. The event is free and open to children up to age 5 and their parents.

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