Literacy, Cultural Identity and Wider Horizons Supported by Initiatives at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Posted on: March 3, 2022

The power of storytelling is an investment made at St. Joseph’s Indian School because it promotes literacy, encourages cultural identity and helps listeners and readers widen their horizons. Storytelling is a treasured Lakota cultural tradition that the school supports through the annual Read Across America Week, an exciting new podcast series and the school’s Bookmobile Summer Outreach.

The week of February 28 was Read Across America Week when storytelling is celebrated at schools throughout the country in the works of Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel. Through rhythm and rhyme, Dr. Seuss’s works coax children to fall in love with reading and storytelling and remember simple passages easily.

Upon hearing “If I Ran the Zoo,” first-grader William Sazue remarked of the author, “He makes up funny words.”

The days of “Read Across America Week” included enjoying Dr. Seuss’s works paired with various activities: “If I Ran the Zoo” – wear pajamas and bring a stuffed animal; “Fox in Socks” – sport your crazy socks, “Wacky Wednesday (no explanation needed), “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” – dress in red, white and blue clothing, and “Cat in the Hat” hat day.

That same week, the school launched a seven-part podcast series on cultural identity featuring Lakota author Joseph Marshall III. A gifted storyteller, Marshall addresses its role in keeping Lakota culture alive. Though the essential Lakota art differs in technique and purpose, both Dr. Seuss’s work and Marhsall’s wisdom shape a passion for storytelling and passing on tradition in students.

Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the return of the Bookmobile Summer Outreach. St. Joseph’s Bookmobile zigzags more than 3,000 miles across South Dakota to distribute free reading materials to Native American families during June and July. This past summer, books by Native American authors procured from Bird Cage Books and Mercantile in Rapid City, S.D., were a popular addition to this traveling literacy effort. Watch for the summer schedule to be announced in May.