Learn to Read English

While maintaining cultural awareness and language skills in the home is a wonderful step toward bilingual ability, many South Bay residents speak and read Spanish exclusively. This can shut them out of the American political system, the job market, cultural opportunities, and business relationships. It can undermine their confidence in everyday exchanges with teachers, employers, doctors.

PCLM teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District and Barton Hill Elementary School in San Pedro to offer an intensive, five days a week family literacy and early child education program designed to help our Spanish-speaking neighbors learn English in a fun, safe and enriching environment.

Even Start

Every morning at 8 a.m., 30 adults arrive at Barton Hill Elementary, children racing ahead. It's another day at Even Start, and everyone seems happy. It's educational, yes, but fun too.

The kids are pre-Kindergarten age, from 0-5. They enjoy an early education program next door to their parents, learning age-appropriate skills, playing with their peers. Their parents sit down in their own classroom for a morning of English as a Second Language. It is here that they will learn skills to help them succeed - in employment, in relationships with their children's teachers, in helping build and strengthen the community - in their new American home.

Lessons are lively. As they work to memorize words, tenses and spellings, the students help one another, building networks of support. Laughter punctuates every class! And at the end of the morning, little voices join the adult ones as parents and children come together for an hour of family literacy activities.

They take their lessons home with them, too. Our lending library includes books the children choose again and again for bedtime stories. What a wonderful way for their parents to practice their new skills!

A Family Story

Just like the European immigrants of previous centuries, the Soto family came to these shores looking for a better life. Originally from Mexico, the Sotos faced similar challenges as the European immigrants, including language and culture. Fortunately, PLCM was able to provide support through the Even Start program.

Little Christopher pulls his mom toward his school door every morning. He can't wait to see his friends, play games and learn new things. He loves coming! But it wasn't always that way. In the beginning, he was withdrawn and isolated.

At 3 years old, Christopher had never been away from his mom. He clung to her wherever they went, refusing to interact with others. But Lucila was determined to provide a good start for her youngest child. He needed to develop social skills that would prepare him for Kindergarten. And he needed to learn English. When Lucila learned of the Even Start program, she enrolled both him and herself.

Lucila loved it. As she learned English and new parenting techniques, she encouraged Christopher to enjoy his own classes. Gradually, he began to trust the staff and other children, relaxing enough to enjoy the art projects, games and books they read together.

Now, he races toward her at the end of each day to show her his newest craft. He pulls her toward the playground for shared activities. Lucila is proud of her youngest child, and looks forward to a wonderful future for both him and her entire family. With her own improved English-speaking and writing skills, she hopes to find a good job. Her ultimate goal? To send her children to college, where they will continue to learn to become responsible, caring citizens of the world.

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