CALDWELL — Maxine Sanchez didn’t stop smiling as she embraced her brand-new book to take home.
“It’s mine,” said the 5-year-old girl. “I get to read before bed with my mom.”
Maxine doesn’t get a new book often, but when Fiona May from the Caldwell Library visits her at Head Start she knows something special is coming.
“Every time Ms. Fiona comes I get so excited,” Maxine said. “I just love to read.”
May stops by the La Adelita Head Start Program at least three times during the summer to read and sing songs with the kids. It’s part of the My First Books Grant, a program focused on developing early literacy skills.
Maxine will receive three new bilingual books from the Caldwell Library before she starts kindergarten in August.
“The books build imagination and allow the kids to see words,” May said. “If kids hear language being spoken to them it’s good. Books are such a rich source.”
Maxine is one of 53 migrant kids this summer who are attending La Adelita Head Start, a program federally funded through the Community Council of Idaho, which provides early childhood education to migrant kids ages birth to 5.
Every Spring, migrant farm workers come to Idaho to work the fields. The jobs vary — picking cherries, corn, sorting potatoes and dairy farming.
To help migrant farm workers’ kids overcome learning challenges and language barriers, the Community Council of Idaho along with the Caldwell Library help kids learn reading and writing skills.
“This prepares kids for public school so they have a good transition,” said Edith Sanchez, with Community Council of Idaho.
Migrant parents work 12-14 hours a day in the fields. Their kids face interrupted cultural and language barriers and social isolation — all factors that inhibit a child’s ability to learn the basics before kindergarten. The program starts in May and goes through November with the highest enrollment in the summer.
The focus is learning in both English and Spanish.
The curriculum includes:
- Different ways for the kids to express themselves.
- How cause and effect can work.
- Problem solving.
- Answering open-ended questions.
- Classifying objects.
- How to interact with peers.
- Observing patterns and exploring different objects.
“Speaking bilingual reinforces their primary language,” Sanchez said.
The families receive a My First Books Bookworm newsletter in English and Spanish each month that tells a little about why developing early literacy skills is important and suggests activities to do at home.
Nearly 430 migrant kids statewide are participating in the My First Books program including Aberdeen, Caldwell, Gooding, Idaho Falls and Mountain Home.