By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The first Spanish immersion preschool in Philadelphia is set to open in just a few weeks.
Located at the corner of 15th Street and Ridge avenue in Fairmount, Mi Casita, which means “my little house,” is still under construction, but boasts colorful and spacious rooms that’ll eventually house up to 70 children from ages 18 months to five years old.
“We’re completely Spanish immersion, which means there is no English,” says Melissa Page, founder. The former Philadelphia public school teacher speaks three languages. Originally from Texas, she learned to speak Spanish at 5-years-old and started Mi Casita to pass on the benefits of bilingualism.
“Your problem solving ability increases,” says Page, “because you learn how to decode at a very early age.”
She says 12 native Spanish speaking teachers will use early education techniques to pass on language skills at the students’ most impressionable age.
“You slow down you speech, you point to contextual things and eventually the child picks it up,” she says “That’s how we’ll teach Spanish.”
“Red is rojo…red is rojo…green is verde….green is verde,” sang Zada Michel, 3.
Zada is one of the first enrollees at Mi Casita. Her older sister attends a Spanish Immersion kindergarten in South Philadelphia and mom Molly, says immersion works quickly.
“My kindergartner is already speaking sentences sort of in Spanish,” says Molly, who notes she and her husband only speak English. She says research on the benefits of learning a second language convinced her it would be a great opportunity for her children.
“I’m excited,” she says, “what better way to wed our love of diversity in Philadelphia…with something that really does benefit our kids.”
Page says Mi Casita will open in February with about 35 students. She says they’ll work up to full capacity in the spring.
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