Nunavut children get literature to support language learning

The Nunavut Bilingual Education Society sending out material this fall as part of pilot project

The Nunavut Bilingual Education Society is delivering literacy kits for Inuinnaqtun (right) and Inuktitut (left). (Photo courtesy of Holly McNabb)

By Andrea Sakiyama Kennedy

The Nunavut Bilingual Education Society wants to get little learners reading Inuktut by giving out free illustrated children’s books, workbooks, colouring books and other activity books.

Two separate kits, one to teach Inuktitut and the other to teach Inuinnaqtun, are aimed at children aged 0 to 11. They’re part of a pilot project launched this fall.

And it’s been a hit: within two weeks of launching the online registration page for the kits on social media in October, the program ‘sold out’ of its initial run of 100 kits.

The bilingual education society is a not-for-profit organization that works to preserve and promote Inuit language by developing and providing accessible, culturally appropriate and professionally developed learning resources and support for people of all ages.

With a growing number of resources being curated and created to support the adult speakers, making Inuktut available on Facebook, or an option on Microsoft for translation, the society is now focusing its efforts on the territory’s youngest learners.

So it decided to make something tangible for parents and caregivers to support learning at home.

“Actually sitting down together, reading a story together, that’s essential,” said Holly McCann, project manager at the bilingual education society.

The home literacy kit project had been in the planning stages for several years, so when funding from Nunavut’s Department of Culture and Heritage came through earlier this year, the society was able to pull the pieces together for an October launch.

Parents and caregivers were able to register to receive the starter library by mail. McCann says she hopes it ends up being a valuable education tool for the whole family.

“Not only are the kids learning Inuktitut at home, but the parents are also brushing up on it as well,” McCann said. 

She said not only have Nunavummiut taken advantage so far, but a strong response from other parts of Canada has come as a welcomed surprise. It’s something McCann says will definitely inform future planning.

The home literacy kits are part of a larger range of resources, both print and online, focused on promoting children’s literacy and language skills, says McCann.

She says her society’s goal is to provide educational resources to support the transmission of language, oral history and cultural identity for future generations.

“With language comes culture and community,” McCann said.

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