The full-day, bilingual ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) classroom at Chautauqua Elementary provides comprehensive services for 20 pre-school children and their families every year. Since its inception in 2014, there has been significant improvement in the readiness of children to proceed in their educational experience and an increase in the positive involvement of parents in the schools.
The preschool years are foundational for a child’s language and intellectual development. Children learn most effectively when the environment is safe and supportive, and when their home language and culture are integrated into the classroom setting. This allows children who speak other languages at home the opportunity for learning English, while simultaneously maintaining and strengthening their first language. English speaking children are likewise engaged in another language, and bridges are formed between families in our community. Children who learn more than one language exhibit increased problem solving, flexibility in thought processes and communication, and have enhanced multicultural awareness. Although it appears young children become rapidly fluent in a new language, in reality, it takes five to seven years to develop academic language proficiency and often 10 to 12 years to achieve complex mastery of a language, which is necessary for the continued academic achievement we all hope for our children.
As a first grade teacher, I am witness to significant improvement in the ability of children to access instruction, requiring language skills far beyond simple social communication. Children participating in the program enter kindergarten with more fully developed abilities in comprehending English, which is the main language of instruction in the K-12 classrooms. This is due to the dedication and creativity of the teachers and community support personnel in the ECEAP program. They and the children they serve deserve our full support for the continuation of the full-day program.