The Sealaska Heritage Institute has released three new books in its award-winning Baby Raven Reads series.
Baby Raven Reads promotes literacy, language skills and school readiness for Alaska Native pre-school-aged children. It’s offered in 10 communities around Southeast.
The children’s books are based on the stories of raven, adapted from the works of scholars Nora and Dick Dauenhauer, who transcribed oral stories from Native elders.
“We really took the time to look at literary elements of each book,” said Tess Giant, education program manager with Sealaska Heritage. “We focused on repetition of words and phrases, alliteration, onomatopoeia and familiar sequences. And we focused on those because those are key elements for beginning readers.”
The latest release includes the third book in the series for Petersburg artist Janine Gibbons. Her illustrations for “Raven Makes the Aleutians” tell a Tlingit oral tradition story about what happens after the flood and raven creates land. Her inspiration was the waters around her home in Southeast Alaska.
“I spent a tremendous amount of time on the beach because a lot of the themes have to do with seaweed and kelp rafts and so, yeah I just spent a lot of time paddle boarding around actually, just kind of examining the kelp beds that we have here, the life that happens, how important our ecosystems and how intertwined they are,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons encourages families to sign up their children for the literacy program.
“For all kids that are five and under you can sign up for the Baby Raven Reads program and gets lots of literature,” she said. “The books are just amazing. They’re so beautiful, such high quality. And that’s really what the focus is, is preserving and promoting our indigenous heritage here in Southeast Alaska for our Native community.”
The books are given out free to families enrolled in the program. The other new titles are “Raven and the Tide Lady” illustrated by Michaela Goade of Juneau and “Raven Loses His Nose” illustrated by David Lang, also from Juneau.
The books were released in late November at the Juneau Public Market and are also available on the Sealaska Heritage website. The three illustrators are signing copies of their books at the Sealaska Heritage store in Juneau December 7th during a gallery walk.
Sealaska Heritage started its Baby Raven Reads as a pilot program in Juneau in 2014. The first books were released in 2016. In 2017 the program was recognized by the Library of Congress. Sealaska Heritage is a private non-profit formed by Sealaska, the regional Native corporation. It aims to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshiam cultures.
Alaska Native families with children ages five and under living in Juneau, Angoon, Craig, Hoonah, Klawock, Petersburg, Saxman, Sitka, Wrangell and Yakutat are eligible to enroll for the literacy program.
(Editor’s note: the story has been corrected for the title Raven Makes the Aleutians)