- No amount of grass, berries, clover and honey can satisfy the
rapidly expanding belly of the main character in "Bear Wants
More," much to the delight of 4-year-old Kooper Page.
grabbed the children's book as soon as it entered her home in St.
Ignatius, and squirreled it away for herself.
and her little sister, 3-year-old Kason, do not lack for books.
Reading is important in the Page household and the library is a
regular stop. Their mother, Yolanda, an attorney with the Confederated
Salish and Kootenai Tribes, makes sure the girls are read to for
15 to 20 minutes each night.
payoff will come down the road, according to Linda Clark.
in children's brains are built through their early experiences,"
Clark says. "When they're exposed to books very early in life,
it jump-starts the spiral of competencies and skills, and makes
a huge different when children enter school."
directs a program for Hopa Mountain, a Bozeman nonprofit, called
goal is to get books in the hands of parents and their preschool
children in rural and tribal communities, and is the reason "Bear
Wants More" is in the Page home.
"Bear" is one of 10 books given to Kooper and Kason since
StoryMakers began in 2007.
also own - and have all but memorized - books such as "Owl
Babies," "Five Little Ducks," "Eyes, Nose, Fingers
and Toes" and "Guess How Much I Love You."
a well-read paperback, "Owl Babies" shows the effects
of use - it was obviously around when Kason was teething - but the
board books were built to withstand their young readers.
sturdy, slobber-proof," says Jeanne Christopher, director of
Early Childhood Services for the tribes. "You can chew on them,
spill milk on them, and still use them."
and Malissa Morigeau, Health Services coordinator for Christopher's
department, are one of several "citizen teams" StoryMakers
use to get a new slew of books in the hands of an average of 6,000
children in Montana every six months.
latest delivery includes one called "Let's Count," in
response to requests that StoryMakers include math as a focus for
children 5 years old and younger.
got snappy, lively rhymes," Clark says, "and little holes
on each page that can be felt as someone counts them. You can add,
subtract, count things that are alike, things that are different."
latest deliveries came with bookmarks that offer tips to parents
on how to get the most out of the reading material. For instance,
Clark says, any picture book can be used to develop math skills,
whether you count apples in a tree, sheep in a field or flowers
in a garden - whatever is pictured.
books, she says, help with "early math, early literacy, early
language skills. You can use them for learning sounds, logic, colors,
shapes, sizes and sorting."
on how you look at it, the books can give children a leg up as they
enter kindergarten, or put them on a level playing field with other
kids who have had similar exposure to such material.
we never say we're serving children directly," Clark says.
"We're supporting parents. It's parents who need the support,
and parents who can make the difference."
books for your children in today's economy, when people are struggling
to keep the lights on, their houses warm, buy food ... this gives
them the opportunity to have something they can share with their
child," she says.
the StoryMakers program is present on all seven Indian reservations
in Montana, it is open to any parent of a child from birth to 5
in the 16 rural and tribal communities it serves (several of the
communities are in counties with low populations on the Montana
there is no qualification based on income. The only necessity is
a parent who wants his or her child to have the books.
uses community leaders, librarians, pediatricians, tribal colleges
and tribal departments to get the word out. Here on the Flathead
Reservation, there's a citizen team at Salish Kootenai College because,
Clark says, many students at tribal colleges are parents of young
and Morigeau, meanwhile, target Head Start programs and child care
centers on the reservation, and StoryMakers got a good response
at the recent Baby Fair sponsored by CSKT's Early Childhood Services.
or five titles are selected every six months, purchased by the thousands
through Hopa Mountain and given away. Most families will get one
or two of the books, depending on the age of their child or children.
Recently, the citizen teams have become more involved in the selection
never had a book we have not liked," Morigeau says, "but
they listen to us. We said maybe there was not enough math involved,
and they're starting to address that, which is good, because early
math skills lead to early literacy skills."
says studies show the impact of the education or training a person
receives after high school is minimal compared to the impact of
what they learn before they reach kindergarten, and that children
entering school can be as much as two years apart in terms of their
StoryMakers is available, no parent has to leave their child behind.
helped tremendously with their learning and remembering," says
Yolanda Page of Kooper and Kason. "It's nice for kids whose
parents can't afford to buy books. What I really like is the sense
of belonging. When they check a book out of the library they really
like, they have to give it back, but these books are theirs."
more information on the StoryMakers program on the Flathead Indian
Reservation, contact Jeanne Christopher or Malissa Morigeau at (406)