Sacred Little Ones - We Will Make a Path for Our Children College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, Green Bay, WI
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SLO and CMN Help Students Create the Gift of Reading

Dr. Candy Waukau-Villagomez, Kase Kase Se Kaw "Time Just Before Dawn" (member of the Menominee Tribe) College of Menominee Nation Early Childhood/Elementary Education instructor recently reflected on her craft and her innovative Sacred Little One’s literacy project.

Because of the support of the Sacred Little One’s project-an educational initiative funded by the American Indian College Fund and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation -the College of the Menominee Nation teacher-education students, under the leadership of Dr. Candy in a Cultural Images 300 level class, undertook an ambitious literacy project for young children. Dr. Waukau-Villagomez, warmly referred to as Dr. Candy states:

“I had to think about how to promote and improve literacy with our pre-service teachers on the Menominee Indian Reservation. I wanted education students to acquire the skills to identify and evaluate good multi-cultural literature; and, what better way for this to occur than for them to practice how to put together a picture story book of their own. It was a very powerful experience as students researched their stories and illustrations and began to craft them into the picture story book format. We retold Menominee social stories and put them in picture storybook form, but infused both Menominee language and English Dolch words to create culturally enriched curriculum for emergent readers.”

In addition, students were introduced to collage via Eric Carle as a way to illustrate their picture story books. Ultimately, most of the completed books used the collage medium; collage being a technique much like fabric appliqué-a variety of traditional woodland design and regalia. Dr. Candy stated that a community’s stories have the ability to reflect actual values and experiences that resonate emotionally for children. This is critical for Native American children and Menominee children in particular, as their experiences are often marginalized or under- represented in children’s literature.

The College of Menominee Nation’s SLO “We Will Make a Path for Our Children.” project program has enabled the college to develop an early childhood instruction model to further enable disadvantaged low-income students to gain academic skills, motivation, support and confidence necessary to succeed in elementary education. CMN, in partnership with “The Sacred Little One’s” project has endeavored to infuse literacy and American Indian culture components into the existing curriculum used with children in an educational partnership with Menominee Nation Head Start, Menominee Indian School District, and the Menominee Tribal School. Dr. Candy and her students created 12 culturally enriched original picture storybooks that are now in the hands of teachers and children in the Menominee schools. There will be a 2013 CMN summer session to develop a series of similar non-fiction texts for emergent readers.