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August 21, 2015

Ethnic and Cultural Stories Bring Heritage to Life

Photo of open book with flowers on a wood table.

Cultural and ethnic groups on Lanai are reminding us that learning often begins in the heart of a child’s heritage. A number of newly available programs and resources, spearheaded by the LHES Foundation through a literacy grant, are incorporating native languages and cultural stories to augment the educational experiences of Lanai keiki.

Heluhelu Puke Olelo Hawaii

Once a week, the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center offers families a place to meet and read Hawaiian books aloud. Set in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, Heluhelu Puke Olelo Hawaii is a family-driven program that aims to engage children and parents with Hawaiian language and culture. Families join together to sing songs and listen to stories of their island and native heritage.

“The program is focused on cultural literacy and cultural landscape,” said Kepa Maly, the center’s executive director. “It aims to build the capacity of our students and families so that we are able to engage in an immersion program in the future.”

The non-profit is also working on a collection of stories that will feature Lanai place names. By further connecting the island’s people with their land, Lanai Culture & Heritage Center aims to foster learning through stories and place-based education.

Filipino Literary Resources

In order to make Filipino culture and languages more accessible to children and families on Lanai, the LHES Foundation recently brought over 40 books to the island.

Both fiction and non-fiction titles are available, such as “A Tale of Ilocano Country” and “A History of the Philippines.” Other books convey values of Filipino culture and traditions, such as “El Filibusterismo.”

The LHES Foundation hopes these literary resources will aid the academic development of English Language Learner (ELL) students. Bringing a child’s culture into the classroom and integrating literature into the curriculum can make learning more meaningful and effective for ELL students. The new books may also motivate families to read together, which can be essential to a child’s educational growth.

Glendaile Llamelo, the ELL teacher at LHES, ordered the books on behalf of the LHES Foundation. “Parents are the first teachers of their children,” said Llamelo. “It is important to carry on the languages and dialects to our children’s children. This is something to be proud of.”

The LHES Foundation is happy to share these resources with the families of Lanai. To access the books, visit the ELL Resource Room at LHES.

Kosraean Storybooks

Over the summer, teachers and ELL students worked together to create beautiful bilingual storybooks in Kosraean and English. Kosraean middle school students wrote simple narratives about life in Kosrae for children at the preschool to first grade level to enjoy.

ELL students contributed colorful artwork, providing illustrations for stories of river eels and tiger sharks, children flying kites on a hilltop and Kosraean people showing their love for one another by eating a meal with another family.

Vala Welch, an ELL teacher for 17 years at LHES, now acts as a mentor working part-time in the ELL program. Welch recently returned to Lanai after retrieving the finished books from a Mainland distributor, and is excited to get the books into the students’ homes.

“Most of the students’ oral language skills are quite good, but academics can be so different from talking story. We wanted to facilitate learning by offering these kids a project that was culturally relevant to them,” explained Welch.

Whether by enrolling in the Heluhelu Puke program, or by taking advantage of the valuable literary resources provided through the ELL department at LHES, students are now able to reconnect with their heritage and build a foundation for academic success in future years.

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