About Talk Story: Celebrating cultural heritage and reading

Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture is a joint family literacy project between the Asian/Pacific American Library Association and the American Indian Library Association.

Talk Story supports family and cultural literacy by:

  • Providing opportunities for adult family members to build their own literacy skills as they strengthen their children’s literacy skills
  • Building cultural identity and self-esteem of community members
  • Promoting greater Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN) representation in books and library programs
  • Sharing knowledge and creating awareness of the APA and AIAN communities

Library programs that bring together books and inclusive representation of ethnic communities are important in building confidence in budding readers.  Children need to see their own faces in contemporary characters with whom they can identify.  Additionally, books, rhymes and stories from a child’s own culture allows him or her to see their own heritage.

Children and families from other diverse backgrounds also benefit from programs that promote basic and cultural literacy.  The Talk Story program is a tool kit for librarians to share the richness and diversity of American culture with new readers.

Librarians from different types of libraries (academic, public, school, special, and youth services) have contributed their expertise to produce Talk Story.  The Talk Story mission is to create culturally relevant and reliable resources for librarians that celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native communities, and honor the diversity of all Americans throughout the year.

We hope that the Talk Story resources found on this website will support and encourage librarians to bring their own experiences to family literacy programs.  This is a dynamic resource to which others can add their ideas.

Let’s work together to create accurate, reliable, and culturally competent resources for celebrating APA and AIAN communities.

Talk Story: What it Means “Talk Story” is a Hawaiian expression that means “to chat informally” or “to shoot the breeze.”   A linguistic scholar describes it as “a rambling personal experience mixed with folk materials” [1], while author Maxine Hong Kingston uses the term to describe a Chinese / Chinese-American storytelling style, which is “an oral tradition of history, mythology, genealogy, bedtime stories, and how-to stories that have been passed down through generations, an essential part of family and community life”[2].  In Talk Story: Sharing Culture, Sharing History, books are used as the jumping-off point for informal storytelling during which participants can share, supplement, and generate related stories.  Arts, crafts, and other activities add another dimension that helps reinforce the themes in the stories and/or introduce cultural traditions.

[1] Watson, Karen Ann. (1975). “Transferable Communicative Routines: Strategies and Group Identity in Two Speech Events,”Language in Society, vol. 4: no. 1, p. 54.

[2] Medoff, Jeslyn. (1991). “Maxine Hong Kingston” in Modern American Women Writers, eds. Elaine Showalter, Lea Baechler, and A. Walton Litz) (New York: Scribner), p. 257.