Audio Books Bring Cherokee Language to Students and Public

By Katherine M. Carroll, guest blogger

The Cherokee Nation Foundation has created a reading center with audio books to help preserve the Cherokee Language. The center was created through a partnership with Cherokee Media Ltd.

The Foundation hopes to eventually expand the project to create 250 audio kits to be used in schools within the 14 counties. The audio kits will include three print books and one audio book. Audio kits will be made available to the general public for purchase starting this spring, with proceeds going to the advancement of the audio book initiative and to fund the creation and distribution of the books.

In 2002 the Cherokee Nation conducted a survey and found that no one under the age of 40 was conversational in the language and of the 300 people they surveyed only 52 spoke the language in their homes.

Since that time, an immersion school was created and various technologies have been implemented in order to revitalize the language and help preserve it.

“The immersion school is now a charter school and Cherokee literacy is its main goal. The (audio book) project was designed around the needs of the first grade classroom, in cooperation with first grade teacher Glenda Beitz,” explain Whitney Pancoast, executive assistant at the Cherokee Nation Foundation.

“Beitz previously taught in English language classrooms,” Pancoast said in an e-mail. “She wanted to bring the same learning opportunities to her Cherokee classroom. The audio books were her first choice to expand literacy efforts and assist in enunciation skills,”

Other classroom technologies and tools include digital textbooks purchased by the Cherokee Nation Foundation and eventually an ethnobotany book that will examine the relationships between the Cherokee culture and its uses of plant life throughout history. This book will be produced through the Cherokee Nation Natural Resources department.

The audio books were donated by Cherokee Sisters America and Samonia Meredith of Noksi Press and narrated by Cherokee elder Wynema Smith, who also authored the original stories. So far two books have been introduced into the school and a third is expected to be available this spring.

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