INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.



 

Deborah Castillero is the Founder & CEO of Bilingual Children’s Enterprises. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube and learn more at tipitom.com.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
Bilingual Children’s Enterprises is an on-demand mobile learning and entertainment platform that helps early learners (2-6) learn English and Spanish through a dual language pedagogy; a science-based methodology proven to stimulate language learning. In August 2017 we launched our second preschool mobile app, “Care Bears & Amigos in NYC” in Spanish and English. We believe a new generation of English language learning ed-tech tools can have a major impact on accelerating second language acquisition. We are creating such tools that leverage the incredible assets English language learning students bring to the classroom, while seeking to support their language development and academic success early on. Our mission is focused on helping to close the word gap while supporting bilingualism.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
BCE’s vision was born out a white paper about the increase in numbers of young English language learners (ELLs), the lack of culturally relevant and dual language resources for families and teachers, and the significant number of children who don’t attend preschool. As demographics are changing, many public school teachers are struggling to meet the needs of all their students and they urgently need high-quality ELL tools.

On measures of reading readiness, math concepts and general knowledge, certain Hispanic youngsters are already behind their white peers when they start kindergarten. These differences in achievement have their foundations in the infant/toddler and preschool period. Thirty-percent of the Hispanic children in a national sample did not have strong enough oral English skills when they started kindergarten.

During 2013-2014 school year, nearly five million U.S. students were considered ELLs – roughly 10% of the student population. One out of three students in Head Start are ELLs and mainly Hispanic. Varying estimates predict ELL students could make up as much as 25% of the student population within the next five years. The rate of growth of ELLs in some southern states are experiencing 300-400% increases. In other parts of the country, more than 50% of the preschool population comes from non-English-speaking homes.  In California, 22% of students are ELLs and they’re the lowest performing students in the state.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Our app was developed by a team of education experts in bilingual and dual language education and curriculum.

Key areas of skills development are the following:

  • Letter recognition and sound recognition
  • Theme based vocabulary knowledge in two languages
  • Early geometry and numeracy (quantitative, locative, relational, directional)
  • Fine motor skills
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Practice listening/speaking skills
  • Develop an understanding of conceptual knowledge in which words are linked with concepts
  • Gain an understanding of the concepts of print
  • Gain multiple exposures to target words
  • Learn cognates in both languages
  • Learn about big ideas that promote the most efficient acquisition of knowledge for a range of learners
  • Learn about nouns for general categories
  • Learn verbs/action words, adjectives (color, size, shape, number words: one – twenty), Academic vocabulary in Spanish and English that emphasize quantity (more-less, time, space (e.g., there-here; in-on; in front of-behind)

We also expect the app to:

  • Allow kids to experience culture (kid culture, universal culture, Latino culture, technology culture)
  • Increase family engagement
  • Make learning accessible to all students
  • Help to close the word gap

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
As a mother, I’ve always had a very special affinity towards children. My son and I have done a lot of international travel and we spent seven years providing humanitarian aid to the Kuna Indians; an indigenous community off the coast of Panama. In observing my son, who does not speak Kuna, I was enchanted to see how kid culture is universal and in being open to experience other cultures, so much learning takes place. As a Latina leader, I’m very committed to empowering my community. Not only is there a huge need for dual language resources to close the word gap and to help kids in remote parts of the world learn English, but also a wonderful opportunity to close the opportunity gap by make mobile-learning accessible to the masses.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
My dream is to become the go-to-platform for kids globally to learn multiple languages early through Tipitom® applications, animated video content, books, toys and games. In raising bilingual and trilingual children we will enhance their cognitive abilities, better prepare them for a global economy and create a culture of acceptance.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
I’m trying to raise a seed round of $500,000 to support my marketing, operations and business development initiatives.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Investors are risk adverse so raising capital has been my biggest challenge. Since I’m still pre-revenue (we only launched in August) investors have passed on making an investment in my startup. Additionally, it’s important to understand that only 7% of all startup funding goes to female founders and less than 1% goes to people of color. I am both. While there’s a lot of talk about support for founders of color, there is still a systemic bias against female founders and those of color. Many women are focused on social impact and solving problems that affect families. Most investors are male and in many cases are not aware of the problem, have no direct experience with the problem or are simply disinterested in the “mommy market.” Founders of color, like myself are interested in solving problems in our respective communities. Again, there’s a real disconnect in relating or understanding these problems within the investor community.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Really do your research to understand all aspects of the problem; consult with the experts; be open to trying different solutions; don’t fall in love with your solution as it might not be the best one; seek to collaborate with others; bring on people who are share your vision as this will lead to a great level of commitment; be open to pivot and change often.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
For my company to get funded to continue our efforts, I need others to not only download, “Care Bears & Amigos,” but to buy the app, share the app with others and make introductions to education administrators and partners who can help us scale.

 


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