Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: August 7th, 2023

Move stems from successful demonstration project pioneered in 2022

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), in partnership with a consortium of libraries, associations and educators, is launching a new program to develop culturally-relevant programming for children for use by interested public and tribal libraries across Alaska and the nation.

The two-year program, Raven Reads at the Library, stems from a successful demonstration project SHI pioneered in 2022 with partner libraries in Juneau, Sitka and Petersburg. SHI’s partners reported increases in library card attainment by participants and in book checkouts after hosting Raven Reads at the Library early literacy events.

Assessments of SHI’s related early literacy initiative, Baby Raven Reads, showed the number of Alaska Native students in Juneau consistently demonstrating phonetic awareness increased by 20% between 2014-15 and 2019-20 when the program was operating, according to a study by McKinley Research Group.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with our founding libraries and grateful to our new partners who are helping us to grow and expand the program,” said SHI President Rosita Worl, Ph.D.

In addition to SHI’s partners in 2022, the group going forward will also include the Alaska Library Association, Haines Borough School District Library, Alaska State Library, Montana State University’s Tribal College Librarians Professional Development Institute and the national Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

Among other things, SHI will create online materials to teach librarians and library staff about cultural awareness and diversity; the Raven Reads program history; the use of Raven Reads books to support the program; the Indigenous pedagogy underlying the program; and the project’s activity plans to implement Raven Reads at the Library family literacy events.

SHI will also develop nine program activities to supplement three activity plans developed during the pilot project. All 12 of the library activity plans will be shared with libraries statewide.

In addition, SHI will establish a Community of Practice (CoP) with library staff, who will implement monthly Raven Reads at the Library family literacy events at their libraries in year two.

The term “community of practice” was first proposed by cognitive anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Etienne Wenger in their 1991 book Situated Learning. It is defined as a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

SHI will also develop a tool kit that will include digital resources to supplement events and train library staff on how to use it.

The program will be open to all children as part of SHI’s goal to promote cross-cultural understanding.

Raven Reads at the Library builds on SHI’s early literacy program Baby Raven Reads, which was selected by the Library of Congress for its 2017 Best Practice Honoree award, making it one of only 15 programs in the world to receive the honor this year.

Both programs are 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.

Raven Reads at the Library is funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Raven Reads at the Library demonstration project in 2022. Photo by Stacy Unzicker, courtesy of SHI. Note: Media outlets are welcome to use this image for coverage of this story. For a high-resolution version, contact

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