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Something to talk about [CA-PE]

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Cole, Sally
Publication Date: 
17 Jan 2008

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Young immigrants to Canada are getting help with English and in settling into their new community thanks to a program that helps families with the cost of sending their children to a licensed early childhood centre

These students, recent newcomers to Canada, are multi-tasking. Besides the chance to learn math concepts, literacy and social skills, they are soaking up conversational English during their classes.

"Many of the students that come here have no or limited English. But once they're in this setting it's amazing how quickly they pick things up," says Gallant.

The kindergarten teacher has a natural approach to teaching English as a second language.

"I just integrate it into the program. If I see them struggling, then I will take them out (and provide individual assistance)," she says.

As the children begin to pick up the language, they are able to teach other family members.

"A lot of their parents don't speak English very well. So the children often have to do translation for them when they take the messages home," says Gallant.

These children are the latest to benefit from the Department of Social Services and Seniors' child-care subsidy program.

In 2007, it was expanded to include immigrant families with parents waiting to enter an English as a second language program. This program helps families with child-care costs, paying all or part of the cost of having a family in a licensed early childhood centre.

It's filling a real need, says Sarah Henry, provincial healthy child development co-ordinator.

"If the children are feeling like they have a place to settle into and they're learning a bit of the language, they start speaking English at home and helping the parent.

"Then the children get invited to some social engagements and the next thing you know, it becomes the parents' network, too. That's the rationale behind it," she says.

The program is in response to the growing number of new immigrant families coming into the province.

Last year, 951 new clients registered for services at the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada.

"But I believe when the final count is in it will be more.

"We are happy with the expansion of this program for these newcomers," says executive director Kevin Arsenault.

Henry is also optimistic about the direction her department is taking.

"We've recognized that by supporting children of immigrant families, we can do two things. We can support the children to have better access to the early childhood system and engage with more children and families and early learning opportunities.

"But it's a way for parents to have a bit of community, while they wait to get into English as a second language program.

"It allows them to develop that connection to the Island and some of the skills they need.