Anchorage book fair promotes literacy, Native knowledge
The second annual Alaska Native Book Fair takes place Friday at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. The event is the work of an all-volunteer organization called Alaska Native Media Group, and the goal is to promote reading, writing and Alaska Native knowledge among all Alaskans.
"What we're trying to do is get more kids and well, just Alaska Natives of any age, involved in the media," said Joaqlin Estus, a founding member of the organization.
Estus says she wants children to fall in love with reading, and the book fair is a place where people can get familiar with the idea of being an author.
Books at the fair include both fiction and non-fiction, like Loretta Outwater Cox's "The Winter Walk: A Century Old Survival Story from the Arctic," in which the author outlines her great-grandmother's extraordinary quest for survival in northwestern Alaska.
"This is about a woman who was pregnant, who walked across the Arctic," Estus said.
Estus says the event, which includes partner organizations like Best Beginnings and the Ronald McDonald House, will feature a children's table where young Alaskans can write and illustrate their own books. Alaska Public Media will also air two episodes of the new PBS series "Molly of Denali," the first nationwide children's show to feature an Alaska Native lead character. It's a program Estus calls a huge step in establishing a cultural identity among Alaska Native children.
"She's using Athabaskan language and expressing Athabaskan values," Estus said. "And showing what it's like to live in a village and to be part of an extended family and to be part of a close-knit family."
While the book fair features works for all ages, Estus says she hopes it can have a special effect on children.
"I still have such fond memories of some of the books I read. You think of 'The Wizard of Oz' and the 'Little House on the Prairie' series and just all the books that we enjoyed as children, and these actually reflect our life here in Alaska," Estus said.
The book fair runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with poetry and author readings at noon and 4 p.m.
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