Dual-language children often lag behind their peers when it comes to practical skills, but one East Tennessee State University professor is trying to change that.
Dr. Alissa Lange, an associate professor of early childhood education at ETSU’s Clemmer College, is looking to bring her Math and Science Story Time program to local libraries, with the hope it’ll increase understanding of math and science in dual-language children.
“I really felt like we have these wonderful resources that are classroom-based, but a large portion of the population isn’t necessarily reached by these programs,” Lange said.
MASST is a library-based, early education initiative for students and parents. In addition to helping children learn more science, math, literacy and other STEM-related skills, families are also informed about books and activities within those fields.
Lange’s MASST program was first introduced in New Jersey while she was with the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in 2012. Since then, it has expanded to four states and nearly 30 libraries, but Lange is looking to expand that footprint to Northeast Tennessee.
Previous MASST programs have been in larger, urban centers which has provided some unique challenges for her and the Johnson City Public Library, which hosted a MASST program last summer and winter.
“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to get started ... but (the Johnson City Public Library) did communicate to me that it's been a challenge to try and reach out to these families,” Lange said. “It’s actually part of my grant to have some focus groups with families, librarians and educators in the region to try and figure out what are those barriers.”
Lange also noted that in Northeast Tennessee, the population of dual-language families in much smaller than in other areas where MASST has been introduced. Still, Lange is hoping to expand MASST to other libraries in the area with higher populations of dual-language families as she has partnered with the Holston River Regional Library and is hosting a focus group in Morristown.
And while the population of dual-language families is lower in this area, Tennessee has the second-fastest growing population of Latino families in the country since 2000, according to the Pew Research Center, making the implementation of the program in the area “ hugely important.”
“It’s an obligation to reach out to (dual-language families) and build them up and bring everybody in to give them similar educational experiences,” Lange said.
Lange said she hopes to get MASST programs up and running in other libraries in the next year and hopes to have plans finalized by the end of the summer. For those in Johnson City, the program, which focuses on 3- to 5-year-olds, will begin May 14 at 6 p.m. in the Johnson City Public Library and includes eight one-hour sessions with four in both math and science.