Shimá Storytelling has been selected as the 2023 First Things First Navajo Nation Region Champion for Young Children. The award is given to local champions who are going above and beyond in their efforts for young children from birth to age 5.
Shimá Storytelling is a grassroots reading program for youth of all ages featuring storytelling, singing and activities in Diné Bizaad, the Navajo language.
Stephanie Littlehat, Pauletta Chief-Lee and Radmilla Cody co-founded the program as a way to strengthen k’é/ kinship through the revitalization of the Diné language beginning at home with their children. As stay-at-home mothers, they have taken their methods and strategies of homeschooling the Diné language and literacy teaching with their children to the community level by developing a curriculum that celebrates and strengthens cultural knowledge, kinship, songs and stories that are reliant on language for these important cultural elements to be passed on from generation to generation.
We recently spoke with co-founder Radmilla Cody, who answered a few questions for us.
QUESTION: Why did you choose to show your support for young children and families?
ANSWER: Home is where all teaching begins with our children. Through the Shimá Storytelling program, early childhood development through Diné language, culture and storytelling are critical components in raising our children to be aware and connected to their Diné/ Navajo identity. As mothers and co-founders of the Shimá Storytelling program, we are one of many grassroots organizations that help to fill those gaps by creating a space for families to learn and engage in the Diné language and culture.
QUESTION: Your actions make early childhood a priority. What inspires you to do that work?
ANSWER: What inspires me is my little one and the youth. Children love to learn. As adults and caregivers, we have to create that safe and nonjudgmental space for them to grow and thrive every day.
QUESTION: Why do you think it’s important for people in your field/position in the community to be a champion of young children and families?
ANSWER: Our children should always take precedence when it comes to their health, safety, well-being and education. As our ancestors thought 100 years ahead for us, we now have to think 100 years ahead for our younger generation.
QUESTION: What is motivating you to support babies, toddlers or preschoolers directly or indirectly?
ANSWER: Children are naturally curious and willing to learn. Seeing children reach each milestone in their lives, as well as taking on the challenges in reaching those milestones. It’s the excitement and joy that motivates me!
QUESTION: How do you convince people not connected to early childhood that they should be a voice for Arizona’s children?
ANSWER: As caregivers and community advocates we should always center the voices of our youth. If we believe that the “children are our future” then we do everything in our power to make that future a safe and attainable one for them from the home to the community and political level.