Sitting in a circle at a Longwood nursery school, you'll find parents of mixed races, native Spanish speakers and even babies who can't yet speak at all, gathered together with one purpose: becoming bilingual. While Joanna Bucaro's "Orlando Baby & Me" program may seem like a typical pre-school class, the Guatemalan born-teacher knows her lessons will have a life-long impact.
"Even though it seems like playing, it's opening doors for their future," Bucaro explains to parents who have brought their children, ranging from infancy to pre-teen, to her once monthly class. The lessons, often centered around seasonal themes, focus on repetition, song and interaction between student, teacher and parent.
Sheldon Berstein and his Spanish-speaking wife Linsdey decided before they even had their now 3-and-a-half-month old baby Tyler that they would raise him bilingual.
"I speak Spanish to him I would say 90 percent of the time," said Linsdey.
"I would say 95 percent," interjected Sheldon.
There was a time not so long ago that scientists thought speaking more than one language to a baby would confuse it and limit its vocabulary. But new research proves otherwise. Bilingual children show increased cognitive skills and find it easier to learn even more languages during their adult lives.
Sheldon said he wants to build the best foundation for Tyler starting at a young age, and Spanish seem the obvious language of choice. The Spanish-speaking population in Florida is the third largest in the nation with more than 4 million Hispanics living in the state, according to the Pew Research Center.
"When we play a Spanish show and then an English show, his responses are similar so that would tell me on some level, he is getting an understanding," said Sheldon.
While Tyler's mom primarily wants him to be able to communicate with his extended family, his dad is interested in taking it one step further -- and maybe having a little father-son bonding in the process. He'd also like little Tyler to learn German. "Hopefully that's something that he and I can do together," he said.
Bucaro insists the opportunities that come with bilingualism are endless, and that's why she's made teaching tots her life's work.
"They are learning so much that I know that those seeds we are planting today are the impact we are going to see in the future in our world," she said.