One of the reasons April Noline enrolled her infant daughter Emma-Jean in the San Carlos Apache Kid Child Care Center was that it provided instruction in the family’s native language, Apache.
“I was very happy that the teachers were teaching the Apache language in the classrooms,” Noline said. “It’s not something you hear every day coming from young children.”
The center is a member of First Thing First’s signature program, Quality First. The program partners with Arizona child care and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning.
Research demonstrates the importance of language development to a child’s future academic success; in fact, a child’s vocabulary, attention and general knowledge at ages 3 and 4 are good predictors of reading comprehension levels at ages 9 and 10.
In order to develop language and crucial pre-literacy skills, children need to hear words often, from a variety of caregivers and in a context that is meaningful. In addition, young children who have a strong foundation and are literate in their first language (the language of their family or community) are more successful in acquiring a second language.
Noline is pleased that her daughter’s language skills blossomed from when she was a baby to when she entered kindergarten. Now that Emma-Jean is in the first grade, she continues to use simple phrases in Apache and teaches her mother new words.
“Emma-Jean has taught me words that I’ve never heard, so I was surprised and excited that she was picking up the language so quickly,” Noline said. “Hearing her also encouraged me to want to speak my language more as well.”
Emma-Jean can say simple phrases, names of animals, plants and vegetables as well as teaching her mom how to talk about the weather and the names of the sun, moon and stars.
“It has been key in helping build and connect Emma-Jean’s relationship with her grandparents, who are fluent in the Apache language,” Noline said.