3 Ways to Help the Bread of Life Kids Love Learning
We all can agree that education is important. Here in the United States, many parents invest time, energy, and substantial funds planning their children's educations. Will they go to a Montessori preschool and benefit from a hands-on, child-centered philosophy? Will they home school and fill their afternoons with cultural experiences and frequent real-life field trips? What about the new school where children are buddied up with kids with special needs, learning inclusion and acceptance at a young age? The opportunities are endless.
In the Dominican Republic, the options look a little different. Many impoverished children do not attend any schooling until kindergarten. Public schools are either half-day (mornings for primary school, afternoons for secondary school) or an all day, 7am-4pm affair. It all depends on your neighborhood. Public school is considered free, but families still must purchase a uniform, black shoes, a backpack, and a lot of school supplies before the child is allowed in the classroom. Because of these options, children from struggling families are often thrown into school suddenly when their families can afford to send them.
For other families, "Colegio", or private school, is an option. For a fee, children start school as early as two years old. While not terribly expensive (some are between $5-$20 a month per child), it's more than the families we work with can afford. Some schools are even up to $200 a month! So where does this leave us?
We want a better option. One of our focuses for this coming year is improving the educational opportunities for the Bread of Life children. Here's what we're doing and how you can help:
1. Weekly Tutoring-
We have begun offering a twice a week tutoring time where the school-aged children are able to come in and work on their homework in a quiet, fun environment. We also focus on teaching our children how to read. Many children make it to third, fourth grade and are still unable to read. Our greatest need for the new tutoring program is prayer! Join us in praying that the parents of the children will see the benefit in their children spending this extra time on learning to read and for our "teachers" to continue coming up with innovative ideas to keep the kids' attention.
2. The Bread of Life Library-
Our kids LOVE books. Seriously, we can't keep them away from the library! The library is open between 2-5 days a week, for the hour before lunch at Bread of Life. The children are welcome to "check out" a book to read and then they "return" the book when it's time to eat. We have over 200 books already, and the kids are begging for more.
We are looking to grow our library in a few different genres:
- Single Bible Stories- We have a couple great children's Bibles, but the kids really enjoy short picture books telling different stories from the Bible. By having separate books as opposed to one big children's Bible, multiple children are able to read them at the same time!
- Nonfiction Books- The kids really enjoy learning about construction, technology, and science. Nonfiction books about trucks are always a big hit. They also like books that teach them about different careers, like police officers, fire fighters, doctors, and teachers.
- Touch-and-Feel or Pop-Up Books- For our littlest readers, interactive books are the best! They enjoy hands-on reading and we enjoy when they can sit and look at the books by themselves for a few minutes. This helps with their growing attention spans.
- Easy chapter books- We are looking to grow our chapter book section with some easy readers. Books that 2nd-3rd graders in the states would be starting to read would be a great fit for some of our experienced readers.
If you're planning a mission trip or internship with DR Missions this summer, Spanish children's books are a great donation idea to stick in your suitcase. Here's an Amazon list of some ideas of what the kids like!
3. Puzzles and Other Learning Opportunities-
The Bread of Life children often arrive at the property at 10:30AM and lunch isn't served until noon. While the majority of this time is spent playing sports and running around outside, we have a great chance to offer little learning opportunities for the kids who would rather have some quiet time. This can also be a nice time for team members looking to bond with the children. We recently got two books in the library with included puzzles and they are a huge hit with the kids. We often have groups of kids sitting in the multi-purpose building working on these puzzles together, and they've asked for something a little more challenging. If you would like to bring along some puzzle donations, we are specifically looking for puzzles with 30 pieces or less that come in their own storage box. Please no puzzles that have to be assembled to be put away and stored!
Other learning opportunities might be Spanish language flash cards in math, letters, colors, etc. Work sheets are oddly popular and coloring and craft supplies is always fun. The opportunities are endless!