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Children's Book Exhibit at Dartmouth Recognizes Threatened Languages Worldwide

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Britta Greene / NHPR
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Hilaria Cruz, a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College, is teaching a course this semester on language revitalization. She worked with students to print books in indigenous languages, with no English translation, aimed at young children.

A collection of children’s books in indigenous languages are on display this week in Hanover. The exhibit is scheduled to correspond with International Mother Language Day, a United Nations effort to recognize languages that are under threat.

The books are the work of Dartmouth undergraduates, students in a language revitalization course taught by postdoctoral fellow Hilaria Cruz. Cruz grew up speaking the language Chatino, native to Oaxaca, Mexico. She and her sister have developed a writing system for the language, which previously did not have a written form.

But Cruz said when she had her first child, she longed for books in her native tongue that she could read aloud at bedtime. Teaching her course this year at Dartmouth, she realized she had an opportunity to chip away at that goal. 

Her students printed books in Chatino, Ojibwe and Hupa. They’ll be on display at Dartmouth’s Baker-Berry Library through Thursday, after which some will be donated to families with young children. Cruz will give a brief talk at an opening reception Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.