The American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program is committed to improving literacy on reservations by giving students access to reading materials and helping our partners encourage reading as a hobby. We acquire and distribute hundreds of books to reservation communities and serve thousands of children annually. These books range from well-known classics to delightful new stories for preschool to high school readers.
As of 2011, the National Center for Education Statistics shows that, on average, American Indian and Alaska Native students scored 19 points lower in reading than non-Native students at grade 4, and 13 points lower at grade 8. A lack of reading proficiency clearly puts these children at a disadvantage in all aspects of academic achievement.
The AIEF Literacy service partners with community programs such as Head Start and after-school care programs to help stock libraries for students who may not otherwise have access to children’s books. By providing a “library” atmosphere and support for book selection, children are encouraged to check out a book and find a reading partner who is older than themselves.
The child and their literacy buddy read the book together and then complete a Reading Verification Form, returning the form and the book to the appointed librarian/staff. At that point, the child and their buddy may also choose an incentive item such as toys, books, or games for the children and personal or household items for the reading partners. The incentives are “purchased” with points earned for reading.
The Literacy service encourages children to practice reading, advance their skills, and get more excited about books.
The AIEF Literacy service is one of the best examples of how we help Native Americans improve quality of life and bring about positive changes in their communities. The literacy service encourages children to practice reading, advance their vocabulary and comprehension skills, and get more excited about books. It also helps adults obtain supplies that they need while spreading the love of reading to young and old alike.
Subjective feedback from our most active literacy partners indicates that children enjoy the books, are motivated by the incentive items, and read more often. Some partners have noted that children bring in their report cards showing improved grades, which they relate to increased reading.
AIEF is looking forward to the continuing growth of this service in more and more reservation communities.
Here are a few examples of how the Literacy service touches the lives of Native American families.
“Reading is becoming a natural event each evening which children go home from school! Even though there is a extrinsic reward, the reading behavior is becoming much more intrinsic! And fun rather than a chore.”
“We have a six year old boy who doesn’t talk to anyone. With this program he expresses himself and asks questions. He only does this during literacy.”
“This program is really having a positive effect on an older student. Her fluency and comprehension has improved so much in her classes.”