Madison's Story: Leaping into a Joyful Journey to Literacy

Dawn to dusk girls.jpeg

On a warm autumn morning at an early childhood center in Washington, DC’s Deanwood community, a group of children and their teachers gather in a circle for Inner City-Inner Child (ICIC)’s African Drumming and Dance class. The children are only two years old, but their vibrant energy and riveted attention make them seem older, and show that they are eager for today’s learning adventure.

The African Drumming and Dance class is part of ICIC’s Dancing with Books program, in which artists use music, dance, drumming, and art to teach literacy, math, and other skills to preschool children in low-income neighborhoods in DC. The theme for this year’s program is Journeys, which introduces children to the idea that a book can take you anywhere.

In today’s class, the dance teacher leads the children through lively and interactive singing, sign language, and movement activities, designed to engage them in a picture book. Then one by one, she invites the children individually to the center of the circle to express themselves through dance.

Most of the children participate fully, and with great joy, in the literacy journey that the dance teacher has started with them. Along the way, they will learn how singing, signing, and moving bring the words in a book to life. The children’s journey and the joy that they experience on it will eventually help them learn to read.

But one young girl, Madison, seems more comfortable observing than going on the journey with them. She is attentive, but watches with quiet eyes, and moves cautiously. The dance teacher notices this, and when it is Madison turn to dance in the center of the circle, she reaches her hands out to Madison, gently leads her in, one small step at a time, and dances with her.

That brief, but tender gesture transforms Madison’s experience. She is now confident and enthusiastic, and when the dance teacher invites all of the children into the center of the circle a few minutes later, Madison does not hold back. This time, she smiles and quickly moves to the center with both feet at once, leaping into a joyful journey to wherever the books she learns to read will take her.

For more than two decades, Inner City-Inner Child (ICIC) has supported early childhood education in Washington, DC through arts education programs and early childhood development training. We provide quality arts integration and early childhood development programs that serve low-income families in DC. ICIC also provides arts-focused professional development programs for teachers who work in early childhood centers and school-based early childhood education programs in DC. In addition, we engage low-income DC parents in child development activities that help them create learning experiences at home.