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Children's books written in indigenous languages on display at Dartmouth Library

By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent

February 19. 2018 9:03PM
Children's books written in indigenous languages are featured in an exhibit at Dartmouth's Baker-Berry Library this week to coincide with International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21. (COURTESY)



HANOVER — Children’s books written in indigenous languages are featured in an exhibit at Dartmouth’s Baker-Berry Library this week to coincide with International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21.

A presentation is planned Tuesday night by the instructor and students.

The eight books were created by six students in this term’s Language Revitalization course, which is offered jointly by Dartmouth’s Linguistics and Native American Studies programs.

Linguist Hilaria Cruz, a postdoctoral fellow at the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth, teaches the course.

Cruz grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico, speaking Chatino, the indigenous language spoken in Oaxaca.

“We spoke Chatino with everyone,” she said.

Cruz and her sister Emiliana Cruz, Ph.D., a linguist who works at the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology, co-developed a system of reading and writing Chatino.

“I went into linguistics because I was worried that my language was not being used as much as it was when I was growing up,” Cruz said. “We did not have a writing system for the Chatino system and my dream was to be able to have a working system for the Chatino language.”

Many indigenous languages are being lost because they are no longer being spoken in the home to the next generation.

In North America alone there was once 300 languages spoken, Cruz said. “Now half of those languages are gone.”

Cruz said while some indigenous cultures like the Navajo are working to revitalize their language through indigenous language schools, language is best taught in the home, by parents.

Cruz wanted to give parents the tools to read stories in Chatino at home to their children so she assigned each of her six students the task of creating a children’s book written in her native Chatino.

The class collaborated with the Book Arts Workshop and the Jones Media Center at Dartmouth to complete the books.

“Little by little people are recognizing the importance of native languages,” Cruz said.

Cruz will talk about the project in Dartmouth’s Baker-Berry Library at 6:30 p.m. today at an opening reception for the exhibit. The students will also talk about their books.


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