COURTESY OF KANU O KA AINA NEW CENTURY PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL
Hawaiian charter school student Joshua Kaiponohea Stender wrote "The Fish and Their Gifts," named the overall Book of the Year in the 2005 Ka Palapala Po'okela book awards. His fellow students also won the top illustrator's award for the bilingual children's book.
Native Hawaiian kids' book awarded Kamakau Trophy
A Hawaiian charter school instructor and founder praises the book's authenticity
Native Hawaiian children are learning to read about things like snow, suits and ties, and that's not the way it should be, says Ku Kahakalau.
The founder of the Hawaiian charter school that recently won a Book of the Year award said education "doesn't jibe with the way they (her students) want to live."
So Kanu o Ka Aina New Century Public Charter School students wrote and illustrated "The Fish and Their Gifts/Na Makana a Na I'a" for the school's elementary-age students, said founder/instructor Kahakalau.
The bilingual book won the top Samuel M. Kamakau Trophy and four other awards at the 2005 Ka Palapala Po'okela contest earlier this month. The Hawaii Book Publishers Association's contest recognizes the top books published each year.
Authors of many books that deal with Hawaiian subjects on the market are "primarily non-Hawaiian. They (her students) can tell because the authors, for instance, refer to 'Madame' Pele, but we call her (the volcano goddess) 'Tutu Pele.' They ask, What's a 'madame'?"
"We want to make education authentic, real," Kahakalau said. "When education is relevant, when it has purpose, they can achieve beyond expectations."
Fifty percent of her students are from low-income households, she said, making the winning of the awards even more "awesome."
The author of the book, Joshua Kaiponohea Stender, now a high school junior, was a seventh-grader when he wrote the book for younger native Hawaiian children as part of an innovative book-publishing class project. "The Fish" is published by Kamehameha Schools Press.
In the technical category of the contest, several students who illustrated the book competed against professional artists, she said, to win the overall Excellence in Illustration Award. The students are Alexa Mokukea Bate, Leianna Eads, Leigh Frizzell IV, Pua Herron-Whitehead, Knyaston Kaika Lindsey, Matt Nu'uanu Kakalia, Napua Keopuhiwa, Kina'u Puhi and Punahele Svendsen.
The school also won three other trophies in these general categories:
» The top Award of Excellence for Children's Books.
» Two honorable mentions: for Excellence in Children's Illustrated or Photographic Books, and Children's Hawaiian Culture.