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Yellowknife children’s book promotes Aboriginal languages

It’s Aboriginal Languages Month in the territory, and to celebrate the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) is publishing two children’s books in four different languages.

One book, titled Fish for You and Fish for Me, is by Yellowknife’s Emily Jarvis. The story follows a child and her grandmother as the pair catch and prepare fish for a family meal.

Author Emily Jarvis and her daughter Naomi pose with Fish for You and Fish for Me. (Photo provided by Emily Jarvis).

“It seems to be an experience that lots of kids across the North and in other parts of Canada for sure would share,” Jarvis explained.

“I thought it would be an interesting way to engage kids with a book.”

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Four versions of the dual-language book are out now, printed in English, Cree, Slavey and Chipewyan.

While she originally wrote the story in English, Jarvis said she made sure the language was simple enough to be easily translated.

She was excited to see her children’s story made more accessible to a larger array of young Northerners.

“Anything we can do to encourage more kids to be learning their languages and using their languages, engaging with it in different ways… I’m happy to be part of that,” she said.

The Northwest Territories has eleven official languages. Of those, nine are Aboriginal languages.

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Jarvis says the best way for kids to pick up words and phrases is by seeing them used more regularly, and hopes her book helps with that.

“We’re encouraging our youngest children and our parents of young children to be reading to them to promote literacy,” she said.

“Having the opportunity to do that in your own language is really valuable.”

Fish for You and Fish for Me was one of two winners from the SSDEC’s first Aboriginal Children’s Book Writing Contest last year, which aims to promote stories with strong Northern themes that can easily be translated.

“This contest captures the traditions of the storyteller and adds significantly to our growing library of quality children books produced in our official Aboriginal languages,” read a SSDEC press release.

Their second contest is currently accepting submissions until Jun. 16.

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