Learning on the Go program brings education, fun to Elgin neighborhoods

With a goal of meeting families where they are, the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning on Wednesday brought its Learning on the Go program to the River's Landing Apartments in Elgin.

The eight-week program prepares young children for school and life, said EPEL Executive Director Amber Peters. Wednesday was the last meeting of the summer.

“Meeting families where they are in their neighborhood offers comfort, safety, friends, community and takes away the barrier of not getting to a family engagement activity or books for children,” Peters said.

EPEL is a nonprofit organization working to ensure that children have access to quality early care and education in Elgin and the surrounding neighborhoods. The group partners with other area stakeholders to provide resources, early childhood initiatives, information, and support for families and providers of children under 5 years of age.

The 45-minute classes feature a bilingual storytime, learning through play activities and crafts. This week, the kids decorated cloth capes so they could play superhero when they got home. Each week the kids also get to take home books, crafts, games and toys that encourage learning.

The program's teachers are all bilingual women who teach at the YWCA ESL Family Literacy program in Elgin, said Kris Young of the YWCA, who also is co-chair of the EPEL's executive board.

“They have had all the experiences of being an immigrant family coming in, needing to learn the language or improve, learning about the school system,” she said. “So they can speak from experience, and it really creates a trust factor with the families.”

Peters said one of the advantages of having the events in the community is that they can engage with the parents.

“This gives us a chance to find out what they need,” she said. “We don't want to make decisions about them without them.”

The program visits five sites — four in Elgin and one in Streamwood. The sites are picked based on community data of families who might not be accessing resources like child care, health care and the library. Peters said they've had between 25 and 40 participants each week at the various sites.

Aida Varron has attended all eight weeks at the River's Landing site with her two kids.

“I love that the books are in English and Spanish because it's important to me that they be bilingual,” said Varron, a native Spanish speaker. “All the things they do here are fun for them, and then they have all the things to take home.”

  Genesis Varron, 7, draws a heart pattern on a cape Wednesday during a Learning On the Go class at River's Landing Apartments in Elgin. Rick West/
  Kids received books and educational activities and games Wednesday through a Learning On the Go program offered by the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning. Rick West/
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