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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Davis nonprofit creating language opportunities for kids

TALK. program offering Spanish, French, ASL classes

The Teach Another Language to Kids (TALK) program, a parent-founded nonprofit, has been creating language learning opportunities for children in Davis for 25 years. According to Christine Oyakawa, the TALK program board president, this program is “filling a void that is still in Davis schools,” as it offers lessons for languages that may not be taught at them.

Second language programs are not unheard of in Davis. Cesar Chavez and Montgomery elementary schools both offer Spanish immersion programs. TALK has formed partnerships with these schools but also offers a larger variety of language opportunities, French, Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL), to all kids, regardless of the school they attend.

“We are at seven different locations for ASL, French and Spanish,” Oyakawa said. “The ASL classes are why I joined the board.”

Oyakawa and Rachelle Newcomb, the ASL site representative at St. James Elementary, are both parents to children hard of hearing. One day they requested, to the board, that ASL classes be implemented at St. James Elementary School and were successful. The classes were introduced in 2014.

“We didn’t want to compete with the French or Spanish that was already at the junior highs, but there was no competition for ASL,” Newcomb said. “ I hope this will encourage class offerings of ASL at the high school level through the district.”

ASL classes allow for a wider range of communication and understanding for the community as a whole. ASL is different because it provides kids the power to communicate outside of an audible or written language.

“We have so much technology now, but deaf kids or hard-of-hearing kids can’t hear everything,” Oyakawa said. “It’s not like eye glasses where you can put them on and it’s corrected.”

This year, the TALK program is offering ASL courses at St. James as a trial site for kids in transitional kindergarten.

“We decided to try this because ASL, more so than Spanish and French, allows young children who cannot read the ability to learn because they can look at a picture and know the meaning — they don’t have to know the word,” Newcomb said.

TALK not only provides opportunities for children in Davis, but for future teachers, many of which are UC Davis students, as well. This is because their teaching experience becomes more diverse and in turn valuable. The advantages this program offers is also of strong interest to parents. Luis Reyes, the father of a seven-year-old boy, found the program interesting and wanted to learn more.

“The biggest upside is that it provides opportunities, such as allowing my son the chance to help others that come from another culture or background,” Reyes said. “To have a new exposure that can give one a better world view would be incredible. I know I would have liked that and I would love that for my son.”

TALK offers classes during their fall and winter semesters. Registration can be done either through the TALK Program’s main website or through the Art Center. All classes are open to any elementary school-aged child and meet daily from 7:40 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. before school starts. Depending on the location, many of the teachers can conveniently walk their students from the classes to school. Scholarships are also offered for children whose families need financial assistance.



Written by: Cassidy Kays – city@theaggie.org



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