Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI expands award-winning Baby Raven program across Southeast Alaska

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Program to serve 10 communities, fund publication of nine new children’s books

October 25, 2017

(Baby Raven Books) (Enroll)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is expanding its award-winning Baby Raven Reads program to nine new communities in Southeast Alaska in an effort to promote early literacy, language development and school readiness in Alaska Native children.

The program also will fund development and publication of nine new culturally-relevant books over three years for children up to age 5.

SHI’s pilot program, which ended in 2017 and served Juneau families, was successful in every way, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“A study by an independent research firm proved Baby Raven Reads to be effective in increasing literacy of participants. The program also was one of 15 in the world chosen by the Library of Congress for its 2017 Best Practice Honoree Award,” Worl said. “And, in three years we went from a paucity of culturally-based children’s books to nearly 20 beautifully illustrated and written books that Alaska Native children can relate to and learn from. We are thrilled to expand this program across the region.”

SHI—in partnership with Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) Head Start program—will offer the three-year program in Juneau, Angoon, Craig, Hoonah, Klawock, Petersburg, Saxman, Sitka, Wrangell and Yakutat through 2020.

Developed with early childhood literacy specialists, Baby Raven Reads is guided by two goals: to Improve kindergarten readiness for Alaska Native children and to increase positive attitudes for reading at home. Activities designed to meet these objectives include: regular, culturally based family events that immerse Alaska Native children in traditional stories and practices in an intergenerational environment; biannual educational opportunities for families, instructors, and caregivers; and annual, place-based school readiness camps for 4-5 year olds.

Baby Raven families also will receive free books, which will be distributed at the events and mailed to families regularly.

The program is based on ample research that has shown the effectiveness of using culturally-based teaching resources and methods to improve academic achievement in Indigenous students. Scholars note the disparity between the experience of Native children and materials currently used in the classroom. 

Research also indicates that children who are fluent readers by the end of third grade are likely to do well in school and go on to higher education. Students’ scores in reading are consistently associated with academic grades and economic success later in life.

Baby Raven Reads is funded by an Alaska Native Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education:  CFDA 84.356A #S356A170019.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars and a Native Artists Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, Media and Publications Director, 586-9116,