Ho ho watanay
Ho ho watanay…
Ki yo ke na
Sleep, sleep little one
Sleep, sleep little one…
Now go to sleep
Many people remember lullabies sung to them by grandparents and parents that were passed down through the generations. These familiar words and tunes are one of the first connections that children have to their family histories and cultures.
Literacy and language learning are situated in a broader cultural context. The Centre for Family Literacy began an Aboriginal Rhymes that Bind program in 2009 through the understanding that supporting early literacy is connected to honouring the home languages and cultures of participants. Creating a program that focused on Aboriginal learning enabled both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants to sing, talk, rhyme and play in ways that incorporated indigenous knowledge.
Aboriginal Rhymes that Bind programs include rhymes and songs in the home languages of participants as well as traditional stories. Sometimes programs will also incorporate musical instruments and dancing. They are delivered in partnership with an Aboriginal organization that provides a facilitator for the program and that collaborates with the Centre to ensure that the program is culturally appropriate for participants. Partners have included Aboriginal Learning Services, Edmonton Catholic Schools and Bent Arrow Aboriginal Parent Link.
One participant commented that the program gave her a chance to have fun and learn with her two-year-old son. She said that he “especially likes the tickle songs” and that he will often ask to sing the songs at home with her. She also said that the program gives her a chance to learn about her own culture and to practice some of the limited vocabulary that she has in Cree, the language of her grandparents.
Research has shown that the social and emotional factors within families affect the ways that learning happens in the home. Aboriginal Rhymes that Bind, like other family literacy programs, supports and celebrates the literacy activities that parents are already engaging in and gives families new ideas for enjoying stories, songs, rhymes and books together. “As we repeat the songs and rhymes, in whatever language, it is natural for the families to join in. Soon everyone is feeling more comfortable,” says Valinda Oswald, Rhymes that Bind Coordinator at the Centre,
"it is wonderful to experience; you can feel that the families appreciate knowing they can support their children and are making connections in the community."