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By SARA K. TAYLOR

Staff writer

If you go

Free Spanish class for kids 2 to 5 is 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at Waldorf West library, 10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf. Call 301-645-1395.

What started about four years ago as an outreach program for Spanish-speaking children has turned into the popular Thursday night Spanish class for toddlers at the Waldorf West library.

“Waldorf has a large Hispanic population, and it was an outreach for them,” said Patricia Bowie, a children’s associate librarian who runs the program.

Funded by a grant, the class was held on the third Saturday of each month at the P.D. Brown branch of the library, with Bowie visiting the Judy Centers in C. Paul Barnhart, Eva Turner and Dr. Samuel A. Mudd elementary schools to further work with students.

Over time — about a year and a half — as the number of students grew and the class gained popularity among parents and children, the program evolved into teaching English-speaking children how to speak Spanish.

“Academic studies show [young children’s] brain capacity for learning is amazing,” said Bowie, the daughter of Mexico City natives.

Learning to communicate in different languages gives children a leg up on becoming a citizen of the global community, Bowie added.

“Waldorf is becoming an international community,” she said, and by being in the library, a community hub, she said she’s heard several different languages spoken by patrons.

The class, which includes marking the calendar, discussing the weather, reading books, singing songs (the students are good for several rounds of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or “Cabeza, Hombros, Rodillas y Dos pies,”) and making a craft, can get rowdy and loud with as many as 50 toddlers joining in.

Kim Hudler brought her son, Mason, 3, to the class to expose him to the language and the culture.

“Spanish is everywhere now,” Hudler said. “I think it’s very important to be able to communicate with everyone.”

Shayla Ferguson, who brought her daughters, Ziyah, 7, and Amara, 2, to the class, agreed.

“I want to strengthen my kids’ foreign language skills,” she said.

Amara can count to 10 in Spanish, and Ziyah, who also speaks some Korean, likes learning new languages; it expands the pool of friends she can make.

“I love speaking different languages,” she said. “It’s lots of fun.”

staylor@somdnews.com