Over the last seven years of directing ParentChild+, I have learned that loving our neighbor works in any language.
When we first started ParentChild+ in Amarillo, I went to New York to be trained at the National ParentChild+ Center. There they stressed the importance of presenting the program to a family in their first language. Research shows that as long as a child receives sufficient early language experiences in any language, their brains will develop properly and then the child can later add in a second language without causing any problems. Since I (sadly) only speak English, I focused on trying to find families for our program that spoke English as their first language.
But, God had other plans.
I met Evelyn Lyles who volunteers her time helping mostly refugee families at Astoria Park and Palo Duro Place Apartments. Evelyn was excited about getting as many of her families in our program as possible, and it didn’t matter to her one bit that I didn’t speak their languages. I started out trying to keep the number of refugee families in our program low, since I didn’t feel we were serving them properly if we weren’t serving them in their first language. Over the years we have served more and more refugees, and many of our families refer their friends to us. Currently we are serving all refugee families.
We are able to serve some of these families in their first language. I have hired two moms that were in our program for two years and then trained to become early learning specialists. I am hoping to hire two more this summer. Even though we can’t serve every family in their home language (we’ve had over 10 languages in our program thus far), we have also found that some of our families actually want their early learning specialist to speak to them in English. Parents feel more comfortable practicing English in the comfort of their own homes than they might in public places. They are learning new English vocabulary right along with their children. I’ve even seen some of our moms studying the books we bring to make sure they understand all the words. Even though I don’t always speak the language of our families, I have found that smiles and silly faces go a long way. Parents are somehow able to understand how much I care about them and enjoy spending time with them and their children. Over the last seven years of directing ParentChild+, I have learned that loving our neighbor works in any language.