Revitalize the language, spread the pleasure of reading

Personalized e-books from Innovations for Learning Canada inspire kids in Indigenous communities to ‘get excited about reading’

In a delightful moment of improvisation, children at a book launch blurred the line between fiction and reality.

They had reunited for the June 2022 release of the picture book Ice fishing with Nimkiia story written about and for the children of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Ontario.

In the book, Nimkii, inspired by the real Nimkii Lavell, land-based learning officer for the Wiikwemkoong School Board, teaches Anishinaabe children how to ice fish with a gillnet on Lake Huron.

The book includes words in Anishinaabemowin, the endangered language of the Ojibwa people whose traditional territory is in the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States.

During the reading, when Nimkii came to the part about the children in the story counting the fish, the children at the book launch, without repetition or prompting, started counting in Anishinaabemowin.

“It was such a cool moment,” recalls Fabrice Grover, executive director of Innovations for Learning Canada, the nonprofit literacy organization that published the book. “You could see the joy of these children when they said those words. They learn to read and learn their language at school. It was really powerful. »

IFL, which will become Chapter One in 2023, released Ice Fishing with Nimkii as part of his e-book series produced for and in collaboration with partner communities across the country, the majority of which are Indigenous. The nonprofit organization plans to complete 30 custom titles by the end of this school year and plans to launch an online library, giving readers around the world free access to the collection.

Enbridge is proud to support IFL, which also operates in the United States and the United Kingdom. Literacy is the foundation of lifelong learning and education, and with Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is fast approaching on Fridaythis unique e-book project is making real progress in helping children and young people develop their potential, and honor and protect their culture.

We recently provided C$62,000 Powering the future grant to IFL in Canada to support its high-impact individual tutoring and reading enrichment programs with a virtual coach, and to develop two new e-books. We have also provided US$66,000 in funding to support IFL’s tutoring programs and storybooks in the US as well.

“In Canada, every year, 100,000 children do not complete Grade 3 reading at their grade level,” says Grover, adding that literacy rates in the early grades have plummeted due to school closures during the pandemic. of COVID-19.

A child who does not read well at the end of Grade 3 is four times less likely to graduate from high school.

Another milestone in building strong relationships with Indigenous communities across North America

Arrow An arrow pointing diagonally up and to the right

IFL’s two tutoring programs are at work in schools in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and the Yukon, and will expand to the rest of the Prairie Provinces and the East Coast during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

Children aged 5, 6 and 7 participate in the high-impact tutoring program, attending daily five-minute sessions at school with an IFL early literacy facilitator recruited from the community and trained on the IFL platform to provide lessons in high-frequency phonetics.

Once children can decode three-letter words, they are paired with a virtual reading coach as part of IFL’s enrichment tutoring program, which pairs young learners with volunteers to read together for 30 minutes per week. Notably, 75% of the students IFL works with are Indigenous students living on reservations.

The e-book project complements tutoring, helping communities with two needs, says Glover:

  • urgently help children catch up on reading.
  • advancing language revitalization, one of the 94 calls to action specified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

“Books should give children the opportunity to feel proud of their culture and to connect them with languages ​​that are part of their heritage, but which are on the way to extinction,” he explains. “Schools often lack early reading resources that reflect the realities of these communities. For children to feel excited about reading, the themes need to be relevant to them so they can see themselves in the stories.

“E-books also offer reading coaches and non-Indigenous students the opportunity to explore the original language and culture of communities together.

This is the gap that the IFL aims to fill.

Grover remarks: “We aspire to involve the communities as much as possible. It is not enough to help children learn to read in English. We have the opportunity to help revitalize the local language, which makes our efforts to advance literacy even more powerful.

(TOP PHOTO: The cover of the Ice Fishing with Nimkii e-book, which teaches children words in Anishinaabemowin.)

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