The city is experimenting with a new way of teaching young students from immigrant families English: inviting parents to study alongside them. NY1 Education Reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Cody Wang is spending the summer in a special program at a Queens elementary school. He attends three days a week — with his grandmother.
"My grandma only knows a little English," Wang said.
The Family English Initiative is a new approach to teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) by having two — or even three — generations study together.
The city education department launched the pilot program this spring at four schools in the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens. 104 people are enrolled this summer.
"It promotes the parents being involved in the child's schoolwork — whereas the parents may think it's a separate component — and it almost forms a bridge between school life and family life," said Rose Presvelis, the coordinator of the program at P.S. 120.
Many of the parents at P.S. 120 have never studied, or even tried to speak, English until now.
"It's the first time I'm talking English," parent Lisa Jiang said. "Yeah, before I didn't know English, I really didn't know talking. Yeah, it's good."
For some families, it's a bonding experience.
One woman moved to New York from China seven months ago to marry a man and help raise his eight-year-old daughter. The stepmother and stepdaughter are taking the program together.
She says their English has improved and they've become much closer. "It's really, really good," she said.
In addition to taking ESL classes, the families take field trips together every week.
This week, a group from P.S. 58 on Staten Island traveled to the Children's Museum in Manhattan. The kids said they are proud of their parents.
"I think it's actually a good thing she wants to learn English more so she can in the future get a job, or help us more with homework," student Zasu Alvarz said.
The city is spending $330,000 on the program this summer.
Education officials said they plan to continue the classes in the fall at several schools around the city.
"A lot of laughter. I've seen the parents use little phrases, where otherwise they probably wouldn't, I see them high-fiving each other," Presbelis said. "It's been a wonderful thing to watch."