It is that time of the year. Little boys and girls starting kindergarten or first grade coming in for that school physical required to be accepted into a school.
Ana’s mom tells me she has been complaining of abdominal pain since the open house visit at school last week. I ask the child why she thinks she has pain: “Me da miedo porque no se inglés” I am afraid because I do not speak English. “Entonces mi pancita se pone toda durita y me da ganas de vomitar” “Then my belly gets all hard and I feel I am going to vomit.” The little 6 year old says.
I ask more questions, raised in a Spanish language- only environment, little Ana felt lost at the first day of open school. There were many other kids in her situation in our diverse community… But then I notice Ana is going into first grade…
“Did you do Kindergarten last year?” I ask. She says she did, but she was not able to learn her ABCs in English. Fearing for a developmental delay, I ask more questions, and seeing and hearing a bright and motivated Spanish-speaking child I get a book out, it is a large book with pictures and words in English and drawings, ABCs, numbers and colors to match. And Ana does exceedingly well. Her confidence rising, we end up singing the ABC in English together. And she smiles, and gives me a hug. I give her the book, and tell her she can use it everyday so she can prepare for school on Monday. Her belly pain will be relieved with a sense of security and belonging to her classroom. Her sense of security needs English language.
I am left with questions: Are we doing enough for these children? If she already passed Kindergarten; shouldn’t she had learned more English? What local community organizations exist that I can engage with and support in order to improve the lives of these kids and families?