The Effectiveness of Head Start in Meeting the Needs of a Multilingual Classroom
Kesselring, Amy M.
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In early childhood, children learn to express their emotions, solve problems. think, speak, make friends, and discover the world. Preschool is the child's first opportunity to expand the learning horizons outside the home and discover new ways to stimulate growth. Economically disadvantaged children who in many cases cannot afford preschool are suggested to be at an increased risk for school failure and inadequate developn1ent. Head Start, a federally funded preschool program, welcomes culturally diverse classrooms and uses bilingual educational techniques to motivate children to learn English. A group of Head Start children were assessed during one school year to determine possible differential rates of acquisition of certain cognitive and socio-emotional skills based on their primary language. Results suggest that a child's native language has no significant effect upon the rate of cognitive and socio-emotional skill acquisition in disadvantaged children. Observations of three Head Start children provide a glimpse at language development in a bilingual classroom. Future prospects in multilingual teaching, sensitivity to language differences, and degree of bilingualisn1 are discussed.