The educational gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people is a severe issue in Canada. In 2011, the postsecondary education graduation rate of First Nations youth was only 35.3 per cent. In comparison, the graduation rate for non-Indigenous students was 78 per cent in the same period. To close this gap and to improve the situation of First Nation and Métis children, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education launched, in 2010, The Help Me Tell My Story assessment program.
The Help Me Tell My Story program to promote and measures language learning for pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten students.
Schools care about spoken language because its development is the source from which literacy and mathematics skills flow. Children with less developed oral language skills struggle to share their thoughts, acquire new understandings, and develop reading and writing skills.
Four digital storybooks were developed as part of the Help Me Tell My Story early childhood oral language assessment program. The books focus on Askî, his three friends Nipi, Kon and Tate and their lives around the pond. Each character has a storybook.
The stories introduce Turtle Island and Mother Earth—two central concepts in the First Nations' worldview. The stories are used in the classroom and in the home to help improve early childhood language skills and are available in four languages: Cree, Dene, Michif and English.
The interaction students have with Askî and friends helps the student become comfortable when taking the assessment. On the screen, they see the characters they have come to know and love.
The storybooks are designed for three- to five-year-olds. Inside them, each storybook brings:
Since the Help Me Tell My Story program was launched, the storybooks have been widely used, serving more than 1,500 children every year.
The success of the Help Me Tell My Story assessment program motivated the Government of Saskatchewan to expand and launch the Help Me Talk About Math program. This new program is designed for Grade 1 students. It features Askî the turtle and his friends and helps students practise using math skills such as estimating, solving problems and communicating about math.