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Providing an early opportunity to learn

King’s College offers Hispanic Outreach Program to teach basic literacy.

Crystal Tlatenchi, 9, reads a book during Saturday’s Hispanic Outreach Program at the McGowan School of Business at King’s College.

Niko J. Kallianiotis/For The Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE – Hispanic parents of pre-schoolers can now give their children a better start in school and help them keep up, thanks to a King’s College program.

For the past few weeks, King’s, through its Hispanic Outreach Program, has been offering basic literacy classes for Hispanic families with preschool-aged children.

The point of the class is to encourage basic English language skills for parents to, in turn, teach to their children in order to prepare them for kindergarten.

The classes were offered for the first time over the summer of 2010. King’s decided to offer them again after receiving a grant from the Target Foundation.

Teresa Sosa, originally of Mexico but residing in the U.S. for the last 20 years, teaches the classes as part of an internship through King’s.

“We concentrate on basic things like colors, seasons and the ABCs,” she explained. “Children need to know these things for kindergarten, but sometimes the parents don’t know them in English.”

Sosa is joined by Migdalia Toribio, formerly of the Dominican Republic but, who like Sosa, has lived in the U.S. for the past two decades, in providing instruction to parents with limited English skills.

The classes, which generally last about 75 minutes, are taught bilingually and the material is similar to what children are taught in kindergarten. The two women review the alphabet in English and review common kindergarten vocabulary words in Spanish before translating them into English.

Materials such as activity books and DVDs are also distributed in order to emphasize the repetition of the information at home.

Parents are encouraged to attend the classes with their children, who are given snacks as they review basic English language skills with a member of the program.

Brother George Schmitz of the Hispanic Outreach Program pointed out that the classes are just some of the educational opportunities that King’s provides. “Our ESL (English as a Second Language) courses are well attended. We also offer high school and middle school mentoring programs,” he said.

The sessions are held twice each week, Saturdays at the college’s McGowan School of Business and Sundays in the cafeteria of St. Nicholas School on South Washington Street.

For this session, 12 different Hispanic families in the community have attended the classes, with seven attending regularly. Schmitz hopes to offer the classes again if enough interest is shown.

The classes began the week of March 6 and ended Sunday. Anyone interested in attending future classes can contact the King’s College Hispanic Outreach Program at (570) 208-8021.

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