When the children at Plainview Preschool in Louisville, Ky., gather for story time, a popular choice is that old childhood favorite, Virent Ova! Viret Perna! For those unfamiliar with classical languages, that’s Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, translated into Latin.
Because much of English is based on Latin, the school uses the ancient language to help pupils build their vocabulary. And instead of just memorizing words, Jeff Byrne, the head administrator at the school, says the children learn how words relate to each other through root words, prefixes, and suffixes.
The children sing Latin songs, play games in the language, and use it for daily communication. The Latin instruction is inspired by research from the American Psychological Association saying that learning a foreign language at a young age improves overall reading and vocabulary skills.
The innovative preschool, founded in 1974, also uses piano lessons in the hope of sharpening students’ mathematics skills.
Both projects are being evaluated by Barbara Burns, a psychology and brain-science researcher at the University of Louisville.
Mr. Byrne hopes that evidence the approaches are working will encourage other preschools to try them.
Then, when the holidays are approaching, more teachers might be reading Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
A version of this article appeared in the November 17, 2004 edition of Education Week