Books part of award-winning early literacy program
September 1, 2017
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has published four new culturally-based children’s books that reflect the Native worldview.
The new series includes the ancient story Shanyáak’utlaax: Salmon Boy; and the original texts Let’s Go: A Harvest Story; Picking Berries; and Native Values: Living in Harmony. The books were illustrated by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade and Tsimshian artist David Lang. Authors include Hannah Lindoff (with Marigold Lindoff) and Rosita Worl. The text of Shanyáak’utlaax: Salmon Boy was edited by Johnny Marks, Hans Chester, David Katzeek, Nora Dauenhauer, and Richard Dauenhauer.
SHI will release the new books at a book signing on Friday, Sept. 8, at the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau.
The books are part of the institute’s award-winning Baby Raven Reads, a program for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5 that promotes language development and school readiness. Baby Raven Reads this month was one of 15 programs in the world chosen for a 2017 Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program Best Practice Honoree.
The release of the books is groundbreaking because so few culturally-relevant children’s books from Southeast Alaska exist that are not tailored for the commercial market. And, research has shown that Native students do better academically when their cultures are incorporated into learning materials and classes, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“We know that schools sometimes allow our children to fail and that they’ve stumbled in the past by supplying books with distorted depictions about Native cultures,” Worl said. “With this series we are aiming to meet the demand for books that reflect the Native worldview and to give our children some of the tools they need to succeed.”
The project is based on ample research that has shown the effectiveness of using culturally-based teaching resources and methods to improve academic achievement in Indigenous students. Scholars note the disparity between the experience of Native children and materials currently used in the classroom.
Research also indicates that children who are fluent readers by the end of third grade are likely to do well in school and go on to higher education. Students’ scores in reading are consistently associated with academic grades and economic success later in life.
The books follow on the heels of 11 other Baby Raven books SHI has published since 2016. The institute plans to publish three additional books in October (“The Woman Who Married the Bear,” “The Woman Carried Away by Killer Whales” and “Am’ala”) and two more in November, bringing the total number of books published during the three-year program to 20. All Baby Raven books are distributed free of charge to families enrolled in the program. They may also be purchased at the Sealaska Heritage Store and online. The new books will be available for purchase on Sept. 8 at the book signing. Illustrator Janine Gibbons and author Frank Katasse will attend a second book signing in October when their books are released.
Raven Reading: A Culturally Responsive Kindergarten Readiness Program is funded by an Alaska Native Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education: CFDA # 84.356A, PR# S356A140060.
Books at a glance
Shanyáak’utlaax: Salmon Boy: After a Tlingit mother gives her son a dried piece of salmon with mold on the end, he flings it away in disgust, committing a taboo. This offends the Salmon People, who sweep him into the water and into their world, where they name him Shanyaak’utlaax or Moldy End. Find out what happens to Shanyaak’utlaax in this ancient Tlingit story. Written in Tlingit and in English, edited by Johnny Marks, Hans Chester, David Katzeek, Nora Dauenhauer, and Richard Dauenhauer. Illustrated by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade. Audio for this book is available here.
Let’s Go: A Harvest Story: Learn about Southeast Alaska Native subsistence activities and foods in this original text by Hannah Lindoff, illustrated by Michaela Goade. Readers travel on a journey through the seasons while exploring Native traditions, cultural values, and the beautiful and bountiful Southeast Alaskan landscape.
Picking Berries: Discover the different types of berries that grow in Southeast Alaska while also learning the names for berries in Lingít (Tlingit language), Xaad Kíl (Haida language) and Sm’algya x (Tsimshian language). “Picking Berries” features original rhyming text by Hannah Lindoff and colorful, place-based illustrations by Tsimshian artist David Lang.
Native Values: Living in Harmony: Explore the Four Core Cultural Values of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian of Southeast Alaska; told by Tlingit Anthropologist and President of Sealaska Heritage Institute, Rosita Worl, Ph.D. This book is part of the award-sinning Baby Raven Reads, a Sealaska Heritage program for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5 that promotes language development and school readiness.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.
CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907.463.4844