Since 1989, the City of Ariel has absorbed more than 10,000 immigrants into its general population. While most immigrants hail from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), immigrants from over 30 countries have moved to Ariel since the city was founded 40 years ago.
Today, new immigrants and first-generation Israelis comprise just over 40% of the city’s population. But over 20 years after the first immigration wave arrived, a language bubble has grown – and many young children and even grandchildren of immigrants to Ariel do not speak Hebrew as a first language.
To address the challenge, the City of Ariel has initiated a new program – one we’ve named the Children’s Hebrew Immersion and Language Development (CHILD) program – to help these young Sabras adapt during the most critical period of language development.
CHILD aims to provide a structured Hebrew immersion program for children ages 3-5 enrolled in Israel’s preschool framework (“Gan”).
Children who meet specific language parameters are placed into small groups; each group meets with a licensed speech therapist each week for the remainder of the child’s enrollment in preschool. There are 32 meetings each year for an estimated 26 groups of children in Ariel; in addition, speech therapists involved in the program meet with parents of CHILD participants throughout the year.
The program offers children not only language skills – but the critical social and communication skills which will enable them to succeed in Israel for their entire lives.