Contributions to Literacy in Alaska awards announced

A well-known Alaskan writer, a bookstore owner, a team creating interactive children’s books in Cup’ik, and a program that preserves Alaska Native languages share the Contributions to Literacy in Alaska awards for 2014. Awards will be presented in July 15 at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Honorees include former Alaska writer laureate Nancy Lord, of Homer; Palmer bookstore owner David Cheezem; and the Alaska Native Language Archive at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. A newly-created literacy award is being presented to a partnership between the Kashunamiut School District of Chevak and the Association of Alaska School Boards, which produced an interactive reading program.

Honoree Lord was Alaska’s Writer Laureate from 2008-2010. The author of works of fiction, memoir, and non-fiction, she has also taught at the college level and at school residencies throughout the state, and is part of the core faculty for Kachemak Bay Writers Conference. Her honors include fellowships, artist residencies, a Pushcart Prize and the Celia Hunter Award of the Alaska Conservation Foundation. She is active in conservation and community-building, including chairing Homer’s successful new library campaign.

Honoree Cheezem is proprietor of Fireside Books in Palmer. A nominator described him as “a tireless promoter of Alaskan writers,” hosting readings and other events to highlight their work. Cheezem, himself a writer and poet, holds an MFA in creative writing, and has also served as a borough school board member, planning commissioner, and president of the Palmer Arts Council. He and his wife established Fireside Books in 2001 as a place “where good writing was honored and celebrated.”

Joseph Gorski is Director of Technology and Federal Programs for the Kashunamiut School District in Chevak. Dr. Bob Whicker is director of the Consortium for Digital Learning of the Association of Alaska School Boards. The two helped create a team which translated an interactive children’s book series into the Chevak region’s Cup’ik language. The result is a series of the very first interactive storybooks written and narrated entirely in Cup’ik, helping readers of any age learn to read and speak the western Alaska language. The project has sparked interest in school districts around the state.

The Alaska Native Language Archive, housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library, works to preserve and digitize Alaska Native language materials. With origins in materials gathered by linguist Dr. Michael E. Krauss at the Alaska Native Language Center, Dr. Gary Holton, Stacey Baldridge, Wendy Camber, and Professor Emeritus Krauss have expanded and preserved the collection, and make it accessible to researchers and Native language speakers. The archive holds more than 15,000 documents in the 20 Alaska Native languages, including some of the earliest recordings available.

The CLIA awards are presented annually by the Alaska Center for the Book, Alaska’s liaison with the U.S. Library of Congress Center for the Book. The awards go to people and institutions who have made a significant contribution in literacy, the literary arts, or the preservation of the written or spoken word in Alaska. Nearly 70 people and organizations statewide have been honored over the past 22 years.

The CLIA Awards will be presented Tuesday, July 15 at the Arts Building on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. A dessert reception begins at 7:30 p.m., with a brief awards ceremony at 8 p.m. The event will be followed by a staged reading of Zack Rogow’s “Tangled Love: The Life and Work of Yosano Akiko,” part of the Northern Renaissance Arts and Sciences Reading Series of UAA’s summer low-residency MFA program Rogow, an associate faculty member of the MFA program, is the author, editor or translator of 20 books and plays. Steven Hunt, director of the performance, is a director, playwright, and assistant professor of theater at UAA.

The evening’s events are free and open to the public.

Founded in 1991, ACB is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. ACB participates in Reading Rendezvous, Letters about Literature, the National Book Festival, Alaska Native/American Indian Heritage Month, and more. For more information, see www.alaskacenterforthebook.org.

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