Sealaska Heritage sponsors Baby Raven Reads, an award-winning program that promotes early-literacy, language development and school readiness for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5. The pilot program in Juneau ended in 2017, and SHI received funding to offer the program for several more years and to expand it to nine other communities in Southeast Alaska. SHI is currently offering the program in Anchorage, Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Ketchikan, Klukwan, Metlakatla, Saxman, Sitka, Wrangell, and Yakutat. Special thanks to our partners: Alaska Native Heritage Center, Association of Alaska School Boards, Metlakatla Indian Community, Ketchikan Indian Community, Chilkat Indian Village, Organized Village of Kake, and AEYC-SEA.
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. A study by McKinley Research Group reveals that Native children who participated in the BRR program made 20-39 percent gains in phonetic knowledge, awareness of print concepts, and knowledge of letters and symbols, while scores for all other students have remained relatively static. The program was also known to increase parental and family engagement in student learning.
Family literacy events occur 9 times a year in selected communities. Storytelling, songs, and other literacy activities are available to Alaska Native families with children up to age 5. Through playful and culturally relevant activities with parents, children are provided opportunities to practice and develop skills such as oral language, phonological awareness, print awareness, and letter knowledge.
Baby Raven Books
Baby Raven Reads publications are a collection based on the cultural themes of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. The illustrations in the Baby Raven Reads series reflect the importance of family, subsistence, and our land. From baby board books to early readers and read a-louds, babies to adults can find joy in reading together. Families enrolled in Baby Raven Reads will receive Baby Raven Reads books with literacy activities to do at home. Books are also available through the Sealaska Heritage Store.
SHI's Language Podcast includes the following episodes related to the Baby Raven Reads series:
- Colors in Sm'algyax
- Colors in Xaad Kíl
- Colors in Tlingit
- Baby Raven
- Baby Eagle
- Haida Baby Raven
- Haida Baby Eagle
Tlingit audio for the Baby Raven Reads book Shanyaak'utlaax - Salmon Boy is available here.
Baby Raven Reads was recognized in 2017 by the Library of Congress, which gave SHI a 2017 Best Practice Honoree award (watch a video short of former Education Director Jackie Kookesh accepting the award). In February 2018, the American Indian Library Association awarded SHI's book Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy its American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award, and in January 2020 it gave Raven Makes the Aleutians a AILA Picture Book Honor award.. in February 2018, SHI’s Baby Raven book How Devil’s Club Came to Be was reviewed by the American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) blog as a recommended title. In January 2020, AICL also recommended Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska.