NEWS_SHI receives grant to expand Baby Raven Reads program to five additional communities

NEWS_SHI receives grant to expand Baby Raven Reads program to five additional communities

Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 22nd, 2020

Award-winning program to expand to Kake, Klukwan, Haines, Metlakatla and Ketchikan

Oct. 1, 2020


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a federal grant to expand its award-winning Baby Raven Reads program to five additional communities in Southeast Alaska.

The grant, awarded by the Administration for Native Americans, will allow SHI to offer the early-literacy program to Alaska Native families with children ages 5 or younger in Kake, Klukwan, Haines, Metlakatla and Ketchikan.

The expansion, which will be done in partnership with the Chilkat Indian Village, the Organized Village of Kake, the Ketchikan Indian Community, and the Metlakatla Indian Community tribal governments, is expected to serve an additional 240 children and their families.

“Our Baby Raven Reads program has exceeded our expectations in every way in terms of popularity, success and demand,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “Now, working with more of our tribal governments, we’ve been able to expand the program to almost every community in Southeast Alaska.”

SHI began Baby Raven Reads as a pilot program in Juneau in 2015, and in 2017, the institute secured a grant to expand it to nine additional communities, including Angoon, Craig, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Petersburg, Saxman, Sitka, Wrangell and Yakutat. That growth was made possible through a partnership with Tlingit and Haida Head Start. With the new funding, Baby Raven Reads will operate in 15 communities in the region.

The program 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. 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.

Baby Raven Reads improves early literacy skills by translating cultural strengths into home literacy practices. Baby Raven Reads provides family literacy events, training for care providers, and professional development for early childhood educators. Participants also receive free books, including culturally-relevant publications produced through the Baby Raven Reads program.

An evaluation of the program from 2018-2019 by the research firm McDowell Group found that a significant percentage of parents reported increases in their child’s communication, language and literacy skills. Seventy-six percent of respondents said their children were paying more attention during reading times, and 73 percent observed an increase in the use of words and gestures to communicate expressively.  Sixty percent of respondents said the program increased their child’s ability to recognize letters and symbols.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research 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.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,

Caption: Baby Raven Reads book distribution event. Photo by Nobu Koch courtesy of Sealaska Heritage. For a high-resolution image, contact News outlets are welcome to use the image in reports on this story.

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