Staff report

JOHNSON CITY – Learning experiences aimed at building skills in math, science and literacy are being introduced to children as early as preschool. Unfortunately, kids who are dual-language learners often fall behind their peers during these early stages.
A program created by an East Tennessee State University faculty member that helps preschool children and their families who speak Spanish is now being piloted here in
the Northeast Tennessee region.
“Young children who are dual-language learners are making up an increasingly large proportion of the early childhood classrooms across the nation,” said Dr. Alissa Lange, an associate professor of early childhood education in the Clemmer College.
While living in New Jersey, Lange established the Math and Science Story Time (MASST) program which is a library-based early education initiative for students and parents. The program has shown to be effective in increasing children’s knowledge of key math and science concepts as well as informing family members about quality books and activities within these fields.
Previous evaluations of MASST have been in large urban settings, but through a grant from the university’s Research and Development Committee (RDC), Lange is administering the program in areas surrounding ETSU, including the Johnson City Public Library.
MASST involves eight sessions: four dedicated to math and four for science.
“We offer a lot of different activities and stories for the kids during the program and there are opportunities for the parents to get involved as well and to reinforce these exercises at home,” Lange said. “The children are given a series of Spanish-language books to take home.”
Johnson City Public Library ran MASST last summer with RDC funding and during the winter with funding from the Friends of the Library.
JCPL will start a third series of MASST on May 14 at 6 p.m. Lange is looking to take MASST into other local communities in partnership with the Holston River Regional Library.
She is the co-author of the new book, “Teaching STEM in the Preschool Classroom” published by Teachers College Press at Columbia University.