New app reads children's books in South Slavey

Ready for a bedtime story in South Slavey? The Slavey Storybook, a new app by the South Slave Divisional Education Council, teaches the language through children's books on Northern themes.

First Nations Storybook contains books on Northern themes, based on stories by trapper Pi Kennedy

The Slavey Storybook app features children's books on Northern themes, many inspired by the tales of trapper Pi Kennedy. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

The South Slave Divisional Education Council has released a new app. The Slavey Storybook app contains books written in Slavey, with voice tracks reading the books out loud.

"We realized that the books are of limited value if people can't read the material," says retired assistant superintendent Brent Kaulback, who led the project.

"This way, using the app format, we're able to add audio to the books."

This is the second such app the school district has released for iOS devices (an Android version has been discussed but not yet developed). Teachers are encouraged to make use of them in language classes, though they are also free for anyone to download.

The app consists of a bookshelf stocked with children's books on Northern themes like "Mom's Bannock," "Who Lives in the Bush?" and "Sounds of the Fall," based on stories told by Métis trapper Pi Kennedy. Opening the books starts an audio track that reads out the book in the language. 

Some books include printed English translations, while others are only in the Indigenous language for that app.

The first app, released in 2014, was in Bush Cree; a follow-up in 2016 added Chipewyan. Kaulback says he expects to be able to add to the existing apps down the road.

"What we've done is we've structured these apps so that we can both add more books, and more languages," he says.

"They're designed to be expanded." 

For example, the winners of the school district's annual book-writing contest will be added to the lineup within the apps.

Kaulback says the app cost $15,000 to develop in partnership with Education, Culture, and Employment.


Jimmy Thomson is a former reporter for CBC North.