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Focusing on family literacy

July 19, 2012

Tuniwa Nobi Family Literacy Program Early Childhood Instructor Victoria De La Riva (r) enjoys opening day with visitor Tsoapu Spratt, 4, as a toddler looks on in the seasons section of Tütüwapi, the children’s reading room. (Tütüwapi means children in Paiute.) Some of the event’s visitors were families spanning three generations. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip


With a focus on literacy, literary enrichment and the continuity of traditional culture in the Native community, Tuniwa Nobi Family Literacy Program threw open the doors of its newly renovated Nüümü Adümuinü Nobi Library with the Paiute welcome “Manahuu” during its grand reopening event. Part of Owens Valley Career Development Center, the library is located at the corner of Barlow and Diaz lanes in Bishop.

After the ribbon-cuttings made the re-opening official, nearly 50 guests toured the children and adult library rooms, the literacy center and a traditional basketry display during the event on July 17.

Tuniwa Nobi Family Literacy Program Director Dolly Manuelito said the program strives to raise the Native community’s awareness of the library’s existence and the extent of its services. Nüümü Adümuinü Nobi Library, which means Indian reading house, is open 9 a.m-noon and 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

Nüümü Adümuinü Nobi Library offers a selection of new books, DVDs, audio books and magazines. “We are trying to meet the needs of the whole community,” she said. For example, there are audio books for some elders who have said, “‘I would join the Rez Book Readers Club, but I can’t see’” to read. “We offer library services to public school teachers, as well.”

At the grand re-opening, toddlers to teens thoroughly investigated the Tütüwapi, the children’s library room. The brightly decorated room features 800 general titles and 300 Native selections – and a Marlin Thompson painting of indigenous animals playing a traditional stick game.

Along its Forbes-photo-lined walls, the adult library shelves were bursting with special interest nonfiction – history, basketry and beading, anthropology, autobiographies, law and policy and cooking and nutrition – separated by rock bookends gathered from Westgard Pass. A wealth of poetry and fiction includes non-Native authors like Navajo Tribal Police mystery series author Tony Hillerman, and Native authors such as Sherman Alexie. Their complete Alexie collection includes “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” the 2011 Superintendent of Schools Community Reads Program book. In another of its many services, Tuniwa Nobi purchased many copies of the novel for distribution to the Native community’s home libraries, said Manuelito.

Grand re-opening visitors also thumbed through magazines such as Indian Country Today, News from Native California, Native People, Parenting and Family Fun. More adult and children’s titles will be added, said Manuelito, inviting sug- 

gestion for new book and magazine titles.

Tuniwa Nobi Childhood Instructor Victoria De La Riva said they will offer many literacy-based programs and events, such as: a parenting library, children’s reading time and storytelling curriculum bag. The annual spring and fall book fairs and Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Fair are designed “to get books in the home and to promote literacy and reading” she added.

Currently, the Culture, Craft, Paiute and Reading program for 8- to 12-year olds is “exposing kids to culture through local points of interest” that are relevant to Native culture, such as the fish hatchery, the Ancient Bristlecone Forest and Mono Lake. “All of our programs have a parent component.” Amara Keller, Tuniwa Nobi Parent and PACILA instructor, added, “At any give time, we offer six different programs a month.”

A display of winnowing baskets and cradle boards, woven by novice students in Making a Basket: Owens Valley Baskets Project class, added to Tuniwa Nobi Family Literacy’s focus on cultural continuity. Tara Frank, the Making a Basket grant coordinator, said that promoting Native culture through books, by tying weaving in with language, culture and family, is “key to keeping our culture alive … We have to take the initiative ourselves … A (weaving) student told me ‘I found my heart again. We were losing this legacy in our family.’” Instructor Charlotte Bacoch, an elder/master weaver, and her daughters, Valena and Jessica, were present for the grand re-opening.

Manuelito stressed the importance of literacy, not only for personal pleasure reading and communication, but also for effective communication and reading in the business and academic world. Tuniwa Nobi Family Literacy Program focuses “on young parents” so that they can help their “children be successful in school” and in life, she said.

By the way, signing up for a library card is simple; just fill out a library contract, said De La Riva. There are no library fines. “We only ask for a little volunteer time (at the library) to clear the slate” for lost or misplaced books, said Manuelito.

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