'It's so important': Posters in Cree help kids learn language in James Bay region
'Language is who you are as a person, as a people and as a nation,' says Cree Nation Gov't employee
Big and brightly coloured posters in Cree are the latest tool to help preschoolers in the James Bay region of Quebec get an early start learning their language.
The Child and Family Services Department of the Cree Nation Government (CNG) has added a new series of posters in Cree syllabics and Roman characters to its language resources in the region's 16 daycares.
'Language is who you are'
The posters teach things like colours, numbers, shapes, emotions and weather.
"Language is who you are as a person, as a people and as a nation," said Melissa Rodgers, who is the regional pedagogical advisor for the CNG's Child and Family Services Department.
"It's so important."
Improving resources to encourage more use of the Cree language in daycares and at home was one of 37 calls to action which came out of the Eeyou Istchee Language Engagement Session, held in March in Oujé-Bougoumou.
The session brought together more than a hundred people with experience in language development and preservation and is the start of concerted efforts to strengthen the Cree language.
The series of eight posters will be added to other resources already developed by the department, including a very popular DVD and songbook, created in 2012.
The Singing and Learning Adventures of Neebin & Waabin follow a sister and brother puppet duo as they travel to Cree communities to teach songs and other skills, such as counting and colours.
The videos were filmed with daycare children in nine Cree communities, including the Waspshooyan Childcare Centre in Oujé-Bougoumou.
For the centre's director, Sherry-Ann Simard Sheshamush, the project is still a very popular way to help young children get an early base in Cree.
"They [enjoy] it and went on singing the songs at home," said Sheshamush. "Parents would say, 'my child comes home and he's always singing that song. What song is he singing?' They were happy."
The DVD and songbook were made available to parents with children in the system and for a fee of $20 to the general public, with the proceeds going back to the Cree Child and Family Services Centres Association to be used to create more resources.
Yet another resource being used in Cree daycares is locally produced storybooks.
Titles like Emily Whiskeychan's Incredible Imagination and Monique Saganash's Goose Break with My Family, were written by parents, educators and teachers as part of the contest in 2012.
"The books tell stories of our children," said Rodgers, a pedagogical advisor, adding it's no surprise they are having an impact on Cree children.
"Children love to sing. They love to look at colourful things," said Rodgers, who added they really help educators make their "work more educational and more culturally appropriate."
"That makes them more successful," said Rodgers.