LAUREL, Md.—“¿Como se dice ‘circle’ en español?” the teacher asks a group of toddlers sitting on the carpet around her.
“¡Círculo!” one of them yells.
“Muy bien,” the teacher replies.
Most of the toddlers at Arco Iris Bilingual Children’s Center are not Latino. In fact, the majority are black and white. One girl is from India.
The number of bilingual preschools, particularly English-Spanish ones, has been growing across the country, and not just because the Latino population is growing. A large number of Asian, white, and African-American parents are choosing to put their children in Spanish day-care centers.
In the United States, there are 139 bilingual early-childhood centers, according to a directory of the Center for Applied Linguistics. The vast majority are Spanish-English programs. The Washington, D.C., area, is home to about a half a dozen of them, many of which opened in the last five years. Among them is Arco Iris, a preschool for 2- to 6-year-olds in Laurel, near Baltimore.
“I have families from Pakistan, from Vietnam, Nigeria, white Americans and African-Americans,” says Carolina Reyes, who opened the childcare center in a Presbyterian church two years ago. Reyes, a native of Chile, started the center with two classrooms and two teachers. Now she has six classrooms and seven teachers. Every day, the children learn Spanish through songs, games, and stories.