Kids' book aims to improve literacy skills, preserve Indigenous languages

WATCH ABOVE: A bilingual children's book published in Cree, Dene and Michif, alongside an English translation, aims to promote Indigenous languages and improve early literacy skills.

A new book will soon be part of storytime for hundreds of children in northern Saskatchewan.

The kids’ book, titled Are You Hungry? will be provided to children at their 18-month immunization appointments through a program called Babies, Books and Bonding (BBB).

The book was published in Dene, Cree and Michif, alongside the English translation.

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“One desire that we heard regularly is for books for infants to be in the northern languages,” said Dr. James Irvine, a medical health officer for northern Saskatchewan.

“It was a perfect idea to say, ‘Why not create a book, designed published in the north and written in the north?” Irvine explained.

Irvine and his wife, Trudy Connor, funded the $20,000 project.

“There are children who don’t get exposed to books or may not have books in their home as much as there should be, so there’s the opportunity to improve access to literacy,” Irvine said.

The bilingual book was written by Calyn Stange, a Métis dietitian who works in La Ronge.

“I grew up in La Ronge, so thinking about the hunting and gathering of my family members and when we come together to prepare a meal framed what I wanted the story to be about,” Stange said.

Stange said the three versions of the book also aim to promote and preserve Indigenous languages.

“There’s no assumption that the person reading the book can speak both languages, so it’s about teaching the languages to the parents as well,” said Jacqui Lim, a speech language pathologist in La Ronge and chair of the BBB.

The Babies, Books and Bonding program focuses on increasing early literacy skills and parent-infant bonding by providing books to young children and their families at clinics in northern Saskatchewan.

The books are given free of charge to children at six months, 12 months, 18 months and four years of age.

Are You Hungry? is the first Indigenous-language book distributed through the program.

“There’s strong research that links how much vocabulary a child has when they enter school, to their academic performance later on,” Lim said.

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A self-taught artist and student from Black Lake was commissioned to illustrate the book.

One thousand copies in each of the three languages were printed and will be distributed over the next three years.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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