Meet Kayla

Photo by Jay Westcott

As the education program of Dumbarton Concerts, Inner City-Inner Child brings music, dance, and visual arts to children and teachers in the communities of Washington, D.C. that remain mostly forgotten in a city that is rapidly gentrifying.  These young scholars represent the future of their communities, the city of Washington, and the nation, and our mission has never been more urgent.  Our belief is that the arts are critical to intellectual and social development in early childhood, particularly for children of low socio-economic status. We provide tools for these children to enter kindergarten ready to learn.  We am proud to share news about Kayla, one of our recent success stories from our Dancing With Books program:

At DC Citywide Child Development Center, an early childhood center in Southeast Washington, the playground is littered with discarded furniture, and the heavy padlocked door is more suited to a prison than a preschool. Kayla, a four-year-old whose father is incarcerated, always furrows her brow and retreats when an ICIC Teaching Artist approaches her.  Her father’s absence has made her reluctant to bond with her teachers and form trusting relationships.  Even after several weeks of working with a folk music duo and an African drummer, she is painfully shy. One day, the dance teacher tells Kayla and her classmates that they are going to become the ocean they have been reading about in their book “Skip Through the Seasons”.  The Teaching Artist pulls out yards of billowing turquoise silk. The fabric, smooth as butterfly wings, grazes Kayla’s face and her worry lines suddenly vanish.  For the first time in seven weeks Kayla smiles, diving into the pile of soft silk.  Kayla laughs, her brown eyes full of wonder, and she finally joins the group. Waving the fabric in all directions, Kayla creates ocean waves. She and her classmates learn to read by singing about the seasons, using sign language to swim with dolphins, and dancing like snowflakes falling to the ground. They learn math concepts to the rhythm of an African drum.   At the end of the residency, Kayla and her friends receive a backpack full of new books to take home. For many of the children, these are the first books they have ever owned.

Learn more about Inner City Inner Child and how you can support children like Kayla: