CNF to create Cherokee–language focused reading center
Cherokee elder Wynema Smith reads to students at the Cherokee Language Immersion School in Tahlequah, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Through a partnership with Cherokee Media Ltd., the Cherokee Nation Foundation plans to create a reading center featuring audio books in the Cherokee language.
“The reading center is a portable resource used in a classroom setting,” said CNF Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland. “It is incorporated into daily lesson plans to help with literacy and Cherokee language fluency. The reading center is currently being used in the Cherokee Nation Language Immersion School in a first grade classroom.”
The books were written by Ray D. Ketter and Wynema Smith and illustrated by America Meredith. Cherokee sisters America and Samonia Meredith of Noksi Press donated the first audio books. Audio recordings were produced by Andrew Sikora, director at Cherokee Media and feature the voice of Wynema Smith. The book titles are “The Three Bears,” “The Little Red Hen” and “Origins of Oak Leafs.”
“The Immersion School is now a charter school and Cherokee literacy is their main goal,” Gilliland said. “The project was designed around the needs of the first grade classroom, in cooperation with first grade teacher Glenda Beitz. Beitz previously taught in English language classrooms and wanted to bring the same learning opportunities to her Cherokee classroom. The audio books were her first choice to expand literacy efforts and assist in annunciation skills.”
CNF officials hope to expand the project by donating 250 audio kits to local libraries and schools within the CN 14-county jurisdictional boundaries. Each kit would include the three print books accompanied by its audio book.
“Our mission is to provide higher educational assistance to the Cherokee people and to help revitalize the Cherokee language,” Gilliland said. “To succeed, we have to make sure the language lives in every medium and is available to the people who will be responsible for keeping it alive, our Cherokee youth.”
The kits will be made available for purchase to the general public this spring. All proceeds will go to the advancement of the audio book initiative and fund the creation and distribution of additional books. The project was funded through private donation to the CNF.
Along with the audio books, the foundation also purchased digital textbooks for the immersion school, which will be used in conjunction with existing classroom technology and the addition of the Kindle application for students in the sixth grade and in a partnership with CN Natural Resources, CNF also published an ethnobotany book, which examines the relationships between the Cherokee culture and its uses of plant life throughout history.
About 1,500 copies of the book has been translated in both Cherokee and English and will become a part of the fifth and sixth grade curriculum at the immersion school.
“It is because of our generous donors and loyal supporters that projects like these are possible,” Gilliland said. “As we continue to move forward, embracing today’s technology and engaging our youth, we will ensure that the Cherokee language continues to thrive for generations to come.”
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