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New Kanien’kéha Song Books for Babies

New Kanien’kéha Song Books for Babies

Books can be purchased through the Kahnawake Library website, or by calling 450-633-1016, or email:

Kahnawà:ke—Front Porch Publishing coordinators would like to formally announce the launch of children’s board books printed entirely in the Kanien’kéha language. The set of three (3) nursery rhyme books were translated to promote language learning through reading and singing in Kanien’kéha, and will be distributed free to every Kahnawà:ke child between the ages of 0-48 months.

Kanien’kéha is an endangered language, and there are presently few children’s books published in Mohawk and none in board book format. Research has shown that the preschool years, especially the first three years of life, are believed to be a vital period in a child’s life to learn and reinforce languages. In 2018, Kahnawà:ke initiated a 5-year strategic plan for language revitalization, with a ‘whole community’ approach toward the ultimate goal of birthing first-language speakers.

The board book idea evolved from a discussion between two friends about the lack of ‘finger-friendly’ Kanien’kéha books to read with very small children. Those community members easily recruited more friends and the result is 3000 new books.

This project was carried out entirely by volunteer illustrators, graphic artists, translators and an administrative team who worked tirelessly to see it through. The project could not have been achieved without the generous funding provided by the Caisse Populaire’s Community Development Project Fund, Circle of Giving program, and Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest, who provided Kanien’kéha editing and translation for the books Otsísto Otsísto (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star), Takwa’ahson (Itsy Bitsy Spider) and Akeráhkhwa (You are My Sunshine).

Distribution will occur on Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th, at Karonhianónhnha School, with a special book dedication ceremony taking place at 9:15 a.m. on the Saturday. Due to the current state of emergency in place in Kahnawà:ke, safety protocols created by the Kahnawà:ke Covid-19 Task Force will be enforced to uphold the safety of all. If you would like more information, please contact Charleen Schurman or Jody Jacobs.


Our volunteer team produced 3000 children’s board books, printed entirely in Kanien’kéha, to be given free of charge to Kahnawà:ke families with babies and very small children. These are the three (3) titles we have had translated and published (1000 of each book):

  1. Otsísto Otsísto (Tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)
  2. Takwa’áhson (Tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider)
  3. Akeráhkhwa (Tune of You Are My Sunshine)

Additional books remaining after the distribution to Kahnawà:ke children 0-48 months will be turned over to the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest1 for the purpose of raising funds to produce more Kanien’kéha audio/visual materials and books for children.

Through this collaborative effort we wish to nurture the practice of parents and children reading and singing together in Kanien’kéha, at an early age, for enjoyment and leisure. These tools will contribute toward our community’s objective toward language revitalization, and complement existing children’s programming such as Tóta tanon Ohkwá:ri and Iakwahwatsiratátie Iétewe.

Further, according to Skátne Enionkwaió’ten2, this project will support Iakwahwatsiratátie’s goals in helping children to speak their first words in Kanien’kéha and support parents in their efforts to use the language with their children at home.

As an added complement, Iakwahwatsiratátie is supplying recorded audio to match each book, so families can say the words and sing along together. Audio files can be found on the Iakwahwatsiratátie Facebook Page, Youtube channel and eventually, their website.

Books will be distributed at the Book Launch taking place at Karonhianónhnha School on Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Those who cannot attend the launch, will receive books at Kateri Memorial Hospital Center’s (KMHC) Well Baby Clinic, during their child’s appointment. This method of distribution will ensure every eligible child will receive one set of books.

Board books are very durable and preferable for tender fingers, and this special collection is sure to become a treasured family heirloom, passed on for generations to come.

There are presently very few books for children published in Kanien’kéha and none in the board book format, which is preferable for babies and very young children since they are sturdy and much easier for small fingers to handle. Research has shown that the preschool years, especially the first three years of life, are believed to be a vital period in a child’s life to learn and reinforce languages. Also, encouraging parents and grandparents to read and learn with their babies will create deeper bonds and attachments.

Each book is respectfully dedicated to a first language speaker who passionately contributes, or has contributed to the continuance of Kanien’kéha by willingly sharing their knowledge with the community.

Otsísto Otsísto pays tribute to the memory of Tiorahkwathe Gilbert, a dedicated teacher of the Kanien’kéha language, well-known throughout the Confederacy for his gifts of teaching and sharing. Generations of students can easily recall words and phrases because Tiorahkwathe incorporated song as a teaching method. “Dedicated in memory of Tiorahkwáthe Gilbert who influenced young learners by implementing song to his teaching of Kanien’kéha”, by Jody Jacobs.

The illustrator of Takwa’ahson, Tiohawíhton Peterson, dedicated her work to Mrs. Kateri Deer ‘for being such a kind soul and always being willing to share her knowledge’. Mrs. Deer is well-known in Kahnawà:ke for her kindness, infectious smile and laughter, and she continues to teach Kanien’kéha at the Tóta’s Language Club and singing with the Mohawk Choir.

Akeráhkwa is dedicated by Ieronhienhá:wi McComber, coordinator of Iakwahwatsiratátie, “In memory of Wa’kerenhá:wi Shirley Deere who spent many years of her life teaching Onkwehonwehnéha with love to all her ‘babies’ at Kateri School, Karonhianónhnha School and in Kanatsioharè:ke”.

All books have been registered with an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) through Library and Archives Canada, for its own unduplicated, internationally recognized identifier. Copyright registration is being prepared to protect the artists’ illustrations and for future marketing purposes.

Book Specifications:

  • Size: 6” x 6”
  • 12 pages including covers
  • 1.50mm thick card stock
  • 4/4 gloss varnished (outside laminated)
  • Board book binding with round corners
  • Qty: 1000 (per title)


  • Jody Jacobs and Charleen Schurman, Coordination
  • Kim Delormier, Graphic Design and Illustrator of Akeráhkwa
  • Tekaronhiahkhwa Standup, Illustrator of Otsísto Otsísto
  • Tiohawíhton Peterson, Illustrator of Takwa’áhshon
  • Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest , Translation and Editing
  • Wendy Skye retired baby nurse at KMHC, Guidance and Inspiration
  • Caisse Populaire Kahnawake, Community Development Fund Circle of Giving contribution: $12,688

All proceeds to the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest.

Front Porch Publishing was hatched by Charleen Schurman, with the help of friend, confidant and fellow ‘philosopher-in-training’ Jody Jacobs, who together have spent many mornings on Charleen’s porch sipping coffee, while attempting to solve the world’s problems. Jody coined the phrase, “What’s said on Charleen’s porch – stays on Charleen’s porch!” and thus, most of their ingenious conclusions evaporate with the last drop of java.

One project that did make its way off the porch, though, was Jody’s idea to create board books in the Mohawk (Kanien’kéha) language, to give parents and babies early learning tools. Tiny fingers can grasp the book and look at the beautifully illustrated pictures, while parents, tótas and babas read and sing to their children.

“Stoodis den,” said Charleen and with a grant from the Caisse Populaire Community Development Fund Circle of Giving, the Baby Board Book Project was off and running and Front Porch Publishing was born.

1 Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest is a Kanien’kéha immersion for parents/caregivers of children aged 0- 48 months, offering a home-like environment for parents to learn Kanien’kéha with their children
2 Bringing community members and organizations together to create a 5-year strategic plan for language revitalization in Kahnawà:ke.
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