KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany —
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Derek France, 3rd Air Force Commander, volunteered at Villa Winzig, a local German preschool, to read books as part of a community outreach program base of the 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation Office, Oct. 13, 2022.
The program aims to improve relations within the local community and to introduce the English language to German children from an early age by hosting grassroots volunteers on a monthly basis.
Reading with Villa Winzig began in 2009 as a unique way for members of Ramstein Air Base, Germany to get involved in the community. However, the program has recently expanded to include two other local kindergartens.
“Relationships are built at the local level,” France said. “We may have strategic programs in place and senior leaders may stand in front of a camera and smile, but the reality is that our partnerships are built on years of cooperation and trust. This is something we and our partners in Rhineland-Pfalz are investing in, as it will pay dividends for years.
Susanne Christmann, director of the Villa Winzig kindergarten, explained that the reading program and the introduction of English in early childhood education are unique in Rhineland-Pfalz. Although the introduction of English at this level is unique, many other kindergartens participate in a national initiative to learn about neighboring countries and cultures.
“It’s very nice to have volunteers here once a month – that’s perfect,” said Christmann. “But who are our neighbors here? The Americans are our neighbors in Kaiserslautern, Spangdahlem and even Baumholder. Children not only learn English vocabulary, but also grammar and how it is spoken through the program. »
The kindergarten promotes the learning of foreign languages from an early age since some of their pupils also come from Turkey and Russia. Caroline Moor, coordinator of Villa Winzig Kindergarten Ambassador and UK English speaker, said many pupils benefited from the reading program and heard multiple languages in kindergarten and at home.
“We need to make sure children as young as two and three are aware that there are other languages,” Moor said. “Bringing them English with an American accent here, in a safe environment with people they know and trust, is great. Some children are closed to this idea because it is unfamiliar to them. On the contrary, we have students who seem to adopt it from the start and who are able to converse in English.
Any active duty service member, civilians and dependents of Ramstein are encouraged to volunteer. Members wishing to volunteer should contact the host country office at [email protected].