© Nancy Kings - TC MEDIA
Jean Poulette, a Grade 2 student from Eskasoni, was among the students to take part in the launch June 9 of a collection of Robert Munsch books that have been translated into Mi'kmaq.
Emily Bernard believes getting children to speak and read in Mi’kmaq at an early age will translate into them being confident speakers of the language when they are older.
That’s why the 12-year-old Membertou resident gave her seal of approval Monday to the launch of translations into Mi’kmaq of seven titles by iconic children’s author Robert Munsch.
“It’s a pretty big event, to get the language out there in a popular book,” the Grade 6 student said following the launch in Cape Breton.
When she was learning to read, Bernard said she was able to access books written in Mi’kmaq by local writers, but said she believes it’s important to also be able to read some other titles.
“It’s pretty amazing because a lot of people in the world read Robert Munsch and it’s good that they can kind of learn Mi’kmaq. And it’s just fun to read,” she said.
“They understand Mi’kmaq in a way and if they keep learning it all through their childhood they’ll be fluent speakers when they’re older.
“There’s pretty good jokes in there too, they’re funny books.”
Students from Membertou, Eskasoni and members of the community gathered at the new Membertou School gymnasium for the launch.
The books are being published through Eastern Woodland Publishing, with 500 copies each being published. There are also teacher-guided lesson plans. Books will be distributed to the 12 communities within Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey jurisdiction and integrated into the school curriculum.
Adults and children alike laughed as Elizabeth Paul read from Ketu’ Pi’si — I Have to Go — a book that was partially inspired my Munsch’s encounters with his son repeatedly wetting the bed. Paul and Barbara Sylliboy served as translators for the project.
Blaire Gould, Mi’kmaq language co-ordinator, said the conversation with Munsch began in 2011, and he granted permission for his books to be translated into all Canadian First Nation languages. Munsch was kept up to speed throughout the process. He wasn’t able to attend the launch due to health concerns
“(He’s) here in spirit,” Gould said.
Mi’kmaq authors create rich, compelling stories in their own language, but those behind the Munsch project wanted to be able to offer young readers something different, Gould said.
“We also really wanted to take another step together with our own translators and our own book creators and we wanted to say that this is possible,” she said. “What’s so special about Robert Munsch is that he is iconic and most of these books have been read to us as children. We read most of these books to our children. To have them translated into Mi’kmaq really empowers our language that there are opportunities to really go forward with other authors.”
Gould said they encourage people to try their best to speak Mi’kmaq, to listen to the language, and to use Mi’kmaq whenever they can to ensure the survival of the language.
“It’s basically a tool for language — it isn’t the solution, it isn’t the way to learn the language, it’s a tool that complements the language,” Gould said.
She said an advisory committee from the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey education authority worked on the venture and a committee of elders selected from Munsch’s catalogue. They all worked together to ensure the translations were true to Mi’kmaq culture and language while maintaining the integrity of Munsch’s stories, Gould said.
Eleanor Bernard, executive director of Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey, called the translations “a giant step” in the ongoing work to ensure the survival of the Mi’kmaq language, adding it will open doors to collaborations with other authors.
“It’s very special and meaningful to open them up and read them in Mi’kmaq,” she said.
The seven translated books are Love You Forever, Thomas’ Snowsuit, I’m So Embarrassed, Andrew’s Loose Tooth, A Promise is a Promise, Mud Puddle, and I Have to Go.