Andrés Nieto is learning how to count just like most toddlers, but unlike some 3-year-olds, he’s doing it in two languages.
Andrés attends the Hualapai Day Care center in Peach Springs where teachers focus on preserving the region’s native language by teaching it to the next generation of young learners.
“I really like that they’re teaching the kids Hualapai words, because he’s using them at home, too,” said Andrés’ mom, Heather Nieto. “He can say his numbers in Hualapai, along with ‘Hello, how are you?’ and ‘Come here.’”
Research shows that culturally-based early learning programs with strong native language programs positively influence a young child’s academic, social and cultural development, including self-identity.
The Hualapai Day Care has a preschool teacher on staff who is fluent in the Hualapai language and incorporates basic words into everyday lessons. The Hualapai Day Care has also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to offer language classes once a month to parents and children.
The Hualapai Day Care center is a participant of First Things First’s signature program Quality First, which partners with child care centers and preschools across Arizona to improve early learning.
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The center encourages parents to support learning at home through take-home activities and monthly family nights, Nieto said.
Andrés has attended the Hualapai Day Care center since he was 6 months old. Since he is an only child, Nieto said that at home, her son is mostly around adults. Being around kids his own age has taught him how to get along with others, which is a critical part of being ready to start kindergarten.
“I love that when he’s at the center he’s around his peers and developing his social skills,” Nieto said.