Authors, Stories & Pirates: Students Loved Attending the SD Festival of Books

Students from St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain attended the 2018 S.D. Festival of Books along with three members of St. Joseph's Indian School staff. 

'Authors in the Making' from St. Joseph's Indian School Find Inspiration at Festival

By Kim Bartling

"In sharing the journey of life, travel with the humble person on the quiet path." – Joseph M. Marshall III, The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living

Marshall was just one of the many authors/presenters at the 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books, which was held in Sioux Falls and Brookings Sept. 21-23.

During his presentation, entitled, "'Indians' vs. Indians: Writing the Truth," the truth that hope comes in the form of children was shown in the 12 students from St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, S.D.

The students took their seats to humbly learn how to use writing to enrich their journey. In addition to Marshall, they also attended sessions about “The Wizard of Oz,” writing pirate books and using dreams as text.

This year’s festival theme was, “What’s True, What’s False & What’s Important?”

What is true is that only 70% of Native Americans graduate from high school and only 13% of those high school graduates continue on to obtain a college degree.

What is false is the adage, “Children should be seen and not heard.”

What is important is that Native children receive an education in which they are inspired to share their own story — their own voice. To be seen and heard will strengthen each child’s connection to every classroom in which they walk.

Fourth grader Makaia enjoyed the Young Readers South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls Sept. 20-23, 2018.

"My favorite time was when we went to Jessie Rencountre's talk. She had a dream and she used [her book] on her dream! Her book, 'Pet'a Shows Misun The Light,' is about how kindness really can change the world. She really spoke to me." - Makaia, fourth grade

Sixth grader Landon enjoyed the Young Readers South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls Sept. 20-23, 2018.

"I came to learn about PIRATES! And I liked it." - Landon, sixth grade

Second grader Millie enjoyed the Young Readers South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls Sept. 20-23, 2018.

"I will never forget meeting real authors!" – Millie, second grade

Seventh grader Everardo enjoyed the Young Readers South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls Sept. 20-23, 2018.

"I came today because I love writing and wanted to learn a bit more about writing." – Everardo, 7th grade


Authors in the Making

The students from St. Joseph's Indian School who attended this year's S.D. Festival of Books are all authors in the making. Three members of the St. Joseph's Indian School staff – Polly, Jessica and Claire – committed to this reality by taking the students to the festival.

"We were grateful for the chance to expose some of St. Joseph's readers and writers to award-winning authors, especially the featured Lakota speakers," said Jessica. "The festival increases enthusiasm and creates relevant opportunities in their young, creative minds. It's experiences like this that drive motivation and turn uncertainties to realities for those dreaming of growing up to write their own books!"

Larsten, an eighth grader, echoed this.

"I came to learn about writing because I love to write. I wanted to learn about ways of writing books and have a good imagination," she said. "The best part of the trip was the speakers telling us how to do poetry, settings, plot and characters."

Secret, a fourth grader, added, "I wanted to learn about writing because I love to write about fantasy people. And I came because I was chosen by my teacher – Steve. He is the best!"

Librarian Claire promotes the equation of students + literature = academic growth. Claire is not just an advocate of reading; she has facilitated the students' writing as well.

"Less than 1 percent of children's books published in the U.S. are by Native American authors," said Claire. "Kids want to see themselves in the stories that they read, so I am always on the lookout for stories by Native American authors. I also have been encouraging the kids to write their own stories.

Jessie Taken Alive Rencountre signs autographs at the 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books.

Jessie Taken Alive Rencountre signs autographs at the 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books. Rencountre is one of many authors who inspire students at the annual event, which was held in Brookings and Sioux Falls in 2018. 

Speak Your Voice - Ho Wanna Woglaka

Ho wanna woglaka – Speak your voice – is St. Joseph's theme for this school year. Writing is a great way to speak your voice and Claire is working hard to give her students that opportunity. She shared this wonderful story with me:

"Last Spring, I was working with a group of girls 1-3 grade, and they asked, 'Can we write a chapter book?' Why, yes! Yes, we can! It was a delightful experience as the girls dictated the story to me, and then drew illustrations. I made a chapterbook of Snacks on the Run, and each author/illustrator got a copy. We also have two copies in the library for checking out. The girls are very proud of their book and have shared it with their houseparents, teachers and families.

When we got the brochure for the Festival of Books, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. Our young writers could meet published authors and learn how they imagined, researched, wrote, illustrated and published their books. Three of the authors were Lakota, and I was particularly eager for the kids to meet them.

At the last presentation of the day, one of the students got up and said, "Guess who else is an author here! My sister!" The presenter was impressed and asked about her book, Snacks on the Run. The students shared it was a gummy bear adventure, which involved a big brother, a teacher, some Swedish fish, a gingerbread man and SpongeBob. The presenter was genuinely delighted and said she would love to read such a story. I introduced one of the other writers/illustrators, too – who was absolutely beaming. After the presentation, she turned to me and said, excitedly, "Can we write another book?"

Mission accomplished!"

Oral Tradition is Cornerstone of Native American Heritage

Storytelling, which could also be called oral tradition, is the cornerstone of preserving Native tradition and voice. Exposing Native American students to this art, while encouraging them to own and tell their stories, will create a new generation of humble yet powerful teachers.

What is true is that by sharing stories, there is hope.
What is false is that all the best stories have already been told.
What is important is that children know that they are seen and will be heard.

About the Author

Kim Bartling is a freelance writer and an educator of over 30 years. This self-proclaimed "Cultural Broker" strives to read more, see more, learn more and do more. From her home state of South Dakota to her adopted country of Belize, Central America, Bartling follows her wanderlust heart in order to experience and celebrate the people, traditions and dreams that she meets along the way.

Young Readers file in excitedly to hear 2018 Young Readers One Book Author Kara LaReau during the 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books at the Washington Pavilion.

Young Readers file in excitedly for Young Readers One Book Author Kara LaReau's keynote during the 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books at the Washington Pavilion.

Editor's Note: In 2019, SDHC is expanding its Young Readers initiative to provide even more copies of its Young Readers One Book to second graders around South Dakota, including those on all nine Indian reservations. As part of our mission, we're looking to reach as many young readers as possible, which is why we were delighted to hear about the impact of our 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books on a group of St. Joseph Indian School (Chamberlain, S.D.) students who visited the event with three school staffers

This blog originally appeared on We are reposting it, with author Kim Bartling's permission, to share the lessons learned by the students at our 2018 Young Readers South Dakota Festival of Books.

We're excited to see even more students learn such lessons from our 2019 Young Readers One Book, "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People." Written by tribal author and Festival favorite Donald F. Montileaux, the book is being printed in both Lakota and English to encourage multicultural understanding and bridge gaps between cultures.

"Being of mixed cultures, both which are rich in storytelling, I hope that people will first look at this book as a fun-to-read book; secondly that it makes them stop and appreciate the story that is unfolding, with the use of English and Lakota language and enticing them to want to research the stories more -- to find out more facts that cast a light on other cultures that have a rich and wonderful background," Montileaux said.

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