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Why Navajo Bilingual Books Make the Best Resources

November 30, 20217 min read

Did you know that there are Children’s books that are written in both Navajo and English? And it’s growing because our community knows the importance of language revitalization. And with the threat of our language slowly disappearing with each generation, we need as much help as we can get.

If this was 10-15 years ago, we wouldn’t be able to find many books and resources to help us with Navajo language learning. I know that the resources today aren’t quite as massive as other languages but it’s growing and I have no doubt it will be more accessible to our people.

But right now I am so appreciative of these efforts and opportunities! Because that means my child and I can learn Navajo at home with more ease!


Table Of Contents

  1. Read more stories for language revitalization

  2. Reading boosts Navajo language learning

  3. Navajo Bilingual Books for all learners!

  4. Books for Babies & Toddlers

  5. Books for children and adults of all ages

  6. Workbooks and Textbooks for Children and Adults

  7. The last thing you need to know about reading for Navajo language learning

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Read more stories for language revitalization

With our language in danger, we may be the last generation to help preserve it.

Learning a second language has its challenges but I know that if we take responsibility to help our child learn Navajo, we can help preserve it. And I believe the best route to language learning is through stories and family.

But we might not always have access to family all the time.

So if you’re aren’t fluent in Navajo or have family close by, reading books is a great way to learn the language faster.

Reading stories means you’ll…

  • get to hear how the language is spoken.

  • start understanding the grammar of how a language works (without trying)

  • learn to read a language in addition to speaking it.

Doesn’t that sound great? We have a great advantage today because there are plenty of Navajo books available to start. From board books meant for babies and very young children to books with fun relatable stories for children of all ages and even adults.

If you don’t quite know a lot of Navajo, don’t worry! Because some books come with an audio CD so you and your child can easily listen to a story in Navajo.

Reading boosts Navajo language learning

Why does this happen?

Kids are great quick learners of a second language and books can help them do that.

I made a book for my daughter one day. It was a very simple book introducing animals in Navajo. I read it to her a couple of times and in no time, she picked it up and started repeating the phrases whenever she saw one of the animals she’d learned. Whether she saw them in other books or on our outings, she used the language!

Soon she also started to call the animals by their Navajo name instead.

I didn’t have to translate anything, either. She learned through context and understood what I was reading. How cool is that?!

I also began trying to read Navajo books. I don’t always know if I’m pronouncing them right, but I practice sounding them out first before I ask my parents how to say the words.

But I noticed that I’m picking up little by little on how the language works. I know that the more I read, the faster I’ll learn the language.

So what are you waiting for?

Navajo Bilingual Books for all learners!

I am going to include the books I have in my library right now. But I will also include other books that are also available and you may find interesting.

Books for Babies & Toddlers

These types of books are great to teach simple concepts like numbers, colors, animals, and emotions to babies and toddlers. You also will find them easy to read to your child because they only have at most a few words on each page.

A lot of these books are a great addition to teaching with flashcards, too!

Baby Audio Series: Baby’s 1st CD

The baby book series is a great one because it can come with a CD. I think the audio addition is great for families who don’t have fluent members nearby to help as often.

To see the whole collection, click here: Baby Board Books

Here are other board books to add!

Animal Colors by Brian Wildsmith

Cradle Me by Debby Slier

Loving Me by Star Bright Books

Books for children and adults of all ages

I love these books because they are relatable to my childhood, my culture, and my family. Most importantly, I think these stories are rich in language, and you’ll see how beautiful the Navajo language is through cultural and traditional stories.

Many of the books are so colorful with impressive illustrations. Plus many of the books are written and illustrated by Native authors and artists.

Beauty Beside Me, Stories of My Grandmother’s Skirts

White Nose the Sheep Dog

The Three Little Sheep

There are many more books like these are available at Salina Bookshelf

These books I love because of their simplicity. The alphabet book is great for lots of vocabulary and learning the sounds. There’s a video that goes with the book at the link below – you’ll have to scroll down to the reviews to see it but you can download it.

The other two books I really love because they are great for beginners. They have short repetitive phrases and the Navajo Life book has a dictionary at the end of the book for all the words in the stories. I definitely recommend these three books!

Diné Bizaad: A Navajo Alphabet Book for kids by Bilingual Kiddos Press

Navajo Life: A Bilingual Children’s Picture Book by Hildegard Thompson

Naadaa doo Naadaa Chiyaan by Native Child Dinetah

Workbooks and Textbooks for Children and Adults

These books may not actually be stories but they are also additional resources to help you as a parent in enhancing your Navajo language learning or to help you in teaching your child Navajo.

Here’s what I have in my library and what has proved useful in my journey.

Dictionaries

Navajo/English Dictionary by Leon Wall

This dictionary is great to have handy when reading or looking up how to spell a word in Navajo.

When I read and don’t know a word, I look to see if it’s in the dictionary. This helps me to learn new words as I read along.

Also, if I need to spell a word, I can find the spelling in the dictionary.

Navajo/English Bilingual Dictionary by Alyse Neundorf

This other dictionary is the best dictionary I’ve come across so far. It’s geared for children and students which is perfect for families as well. What I love about it are all the verbs conjugations in one place. Because verbs in Navajo are complex, this dictionary makes it easier to learn Navajo verbs. I also love the extra vocabulary of common objects and things.

Workbooks

I found workbooks geared for 1st-3rd grade students. But I think they can be used for adults and children at home too!

I haven’t looked at all the workbooks but I have the 1st-grade level workbook. It has little stories and activities paired with each story. I find it fun and helpful in starting to read Navajo.

Learn Along with Ashkii First Grade Level 2

More workbooks like this can be found at Salina Bookshelf.

The last thing you need to know about reading for Navajo language learning

Now you know that stories are powerful for teaching a language. I know it will be challenging to read these on your own but you will have to start somewhere and little by little. Start with little books or use the help of audio for your kids. Then work your way to books with more words.

Let’s work to help preserve our language and culture for future generations. Let’s start with us and our children.

So will you start building your library of Navajo bilingual books now?

navajo learningNavajo booksNavajo bilingual books
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Lintara C.

Lintara aka Ms Linturtle is a wife and mom to three kids. She's helping her family learn Navajo alongside her. She helps create resources and materials that other families or educators can use in their Navajo language learning and teaching!

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