Brooklyn Scholebo looked at her mom for assurance before quietly saying, “Me gusta.”

Then she trailed off. Brooklyn, 8, could not think of the Spanish word for raspberries, her favorite fruit. But that’s OK. She’s still learning the language.

Brooklyn, a third-grader at Lake Pointe Elementary, has been learning Spanish through Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD’s World Language Academy, an after-school program in which parents and students can learn Spanish or American Sign Language.

Around 90 students enroll into the World Language Academy each semester, according to district officials. The program is in its sixth year, and is open to second- to fifth-graders and their parents as well as sixth- to eighth-graders.

Bringing students and parents together is key for Heath Dollar, a coordinator for world languages and English as a second language. The idea for the program sprung from Superintendent Jim Chadwell, who wanted students and parents to learn in tandem, Dollar said.

Sometimes, parents and their children are completely new to Spanish or ASL. In other instances, parents already know a language and help teach it to their children.

“They’re able to serve as language models when they get home and help their children learn,” Dollar said. “They know what they were learning in class so they can reinforce and support those lessons.” 

Brooklyn’s mother, Jennifer Scholebo, has already picked up some Spanish. 

“I can count higher now,” she said, pointing out she can count up to 20.

The World Language Academy also is an opportunity to teach students about other cultures, Dollar said. They may even meet new friends through their new languages. Students in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD speak more than 60 different languages, according to district officials.

“Kids are able to develop a love of language, and they’re able to make friends with a common interest,” Dollar said.

In class, Brooklyn learns Spanish through fun activities. Sometimes her class plays bingo where their teacher says a word and students have to hunt for it on a card.

Brooklyn also absorbs new vocabulary while reading her favorite book series, “Piggie and Elephant.” She has brought home four of the Spanish-translated books. Each page features a drawing of the main characters and their friends with chat bubbles.

But don’t ask Brooklyn to show off her Spanish skills. She loves learning the new language, Scholebo said. But she’s a little shy to show off her Spanish-speaking abilities, she said.

Scholebo wanted her daughter to learn a new language while she was young. She tried picking up Spanish in high school, but it was challenging.

“It’s a really important skill. I know that as you get older it’s harder to learn a new language,” Scholebo said. “That early exposure is really important.”

Brooklyn loves learning. The World Language Academy is a chance for her to keep growing and learn more skills. But when you ask her what her favorite part of the program is, she points to something else.

She loves being able to spend time with her mom while learning a new language together.

Soon, they’ll both be able to say raspberries — frambuesas — in Spanish.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Feb. 2, 2023, for the correct spelling of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD’s superintendent. His name is Jim Chadwell.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob SanchezEnterprise Reporter

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....