Tribal Education to promote reading with Community Youth Grant

April 21, 2017


Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


Last spring the Gila River Indian Community Tribal Education Department applied for the Community Youth Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to develop early education initiatives for students and teachers across the Community.


TED plans to use the grant to bolster reading habits, promote the best practices in teacher education and introduce more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics into the classroom.


TED Director Isaac Salcido said his department has already begun to work on parts of the grant’s objectives by working with the Community’s early education centers.


He said the decision to apply for the grant came at the need to help some of the students at the Community’s early education centers that were having difficulties reading at their age level.


The grant will also be used to develop a book distribution program that is aimed at increasing reading at home.


One of TED’s goals is to put 100 books in 80 percent of the Community’s homes by the end of the grant’s term of four years.


Additionally, it will provide teacher trainings, which are being provided by Extreme Teaching, based out of Eastern Michigan.


Salcido said, “It’s growing habits of reading. Sometimes grandparents will ask what is the best way to teach their kids how to read.”


“The early childhood piece [of the grant] involves getting all the people involved in parent training, to come together and determine what is the message [we] are giving about the role of parenting in the Community.”


It has been understood that the role of parenting does not always involve the mother and father, but is also carried out by other members of the family.


He said guardians ask questions like, “How can I help my child in school?” What if my child doesn’t want to go to school or they don’t like to read.”


It will also allow TED to develop culturally relevant books that will have themes based on what the students see in the Community.


Another component to the grant is the development of culturally relevant books that make connections between the children and their environment.


Culture Coordinator Anthony Grey said the ultimate goal of the books is to develop children’s interest in reading and about their Community, which they hope to incorporate into the themes of the books.


“Whenever someone brings up culture or language, they think of how [we] did things way back when,” said Grey, “So now, we are looking into how we can depict Community life today through the children’s books.”


He said reading develops when parents and children start making connections when they hear stories about their family or the Community.


“That is where the excitement of wanting to learn more begins in a child’s life.”


Other components mentioned in the grant are underway with trainings provided to 25 teachers at different education centers across the Community.


TED Assistant Director Fredrick Poitra said Extreme Teaching has already provided the fifth through eighth grade educators with out-of-the-box teaching styles that can be used in the classroom.


He said Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are one of the subjects being integrated into curriculums at schools in the Community.


“It’s about increasing the academic standard and expectations of the Community,” said Poitra, “Changing [that] outlook, I think [is] huge.”


All three said that change is an incremental process that takes small steps to see improvements of children across the Community.


Salcido said it is about developing benchmarks every year in order to get a birds eye view of the progress that will be made by evaluating the work that is being done.