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Gracias for the Espanol

A large red envelope with a big heart and my name on it came home from school with Maria this week.

Inside were Thank You notes from the children with whom I have been reading this school year. It made my heart swell.

"Yo me gusta espanol'' one 5-year-old wrote out phonetically and with backwards Ys and Ss. The card had a house, a tree and a pencil-colored heart. Sweetness, total sweetness. A few were drawings of me, which completely cracked me up.

Once a week since the winter term started, I sat at a tiny table in Maria's classroom and listened as the 5- and 6-year-olds read to me in Spanish. My job was to help them learn and pronounce the sounds as they read, and to teach them the words they didn't get. It's a Spanish-immersion classroom and while the majority of the children are non-Latinos with little exposure to Spanish outside of the school, I was constantly amazed by the power of little brains to learn a second language. It was a blast for me to see them twist their mouths around a little to make the sounds of Spanish. The best, perhaps, was watching as the reluctant readers got bolder about giving it a shot, being OK with saying it wrong and then getting it right, as the weeks went on.

I didn't think I would enjoy my class time as much as I did as I'm not a natural den mother. But, it also so interesting to get up close to other children my daughter's age. To see how they learn, to watch how they wiggle and giggle and pick their noses. It was a good reminder that my wild child only child is pretty typical.

As summer begins, I am in a bit of a panic about how to maintain the huge amount of Spanish Maria gets during the day at school. While I speak Spanish fluently, I speak a lot of English to Maria these days, which is not a great way to help her strengthen her Spanish skills. It is sheer laziness on my part. So, we're headed to Miami next month to immerse ourselves in Abuelitos and other Cuban relatives, and when we get back, I know just what Spanish-speaking kids to call to hang with, and to habla a little espanol.

I may not be calling on the nose-pickers though.

Visit Bilingual in the Boonies and Los Pollitos Dicen.