Young Pacific Leaders Samoan Early Literacy Program

Samoan Early Childhood Language Literacy

This is a program supported by the U.S. State Department through its YPL Small Grants Program.


This project connects Samoans from American Sāmoa and the Independent State of Sāmoa through the Leulumoega School of Fine Arts, an arts school, and the early childhood education (ECE) progams in Sāmoa and American Sāmoa to produce a set of Samoan language children’s books. The goal of the project is to produce a minimum of 10 short children’s books in partnership with the Leulumoega School of Fine Arts in the Independent State of Sāmoa.

Leulumoega School of Fine Arts


  • Project Leader: John Patu, Jr (Vaimoana Early Learning Center)
  • Secretary: Gabrielle Faʻaiʻuaso (Fale Film, Alafaga Media)
  • Treasurer: Carmelita Patu (Association of Samoan Language Nests)



Contrary to natural population increases in most other places in the world, the Samoan population in both Sāmoa and American Sāmoa have either remained stagnant or have steadily declined over the past several decades. The Samoan population has exponentially increased in the diasproa in the United States, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Australia, which has helped to sustain and develop the local economy in the homeland. This has meant, though, a major tradeoff in the transmission and maintenance of Samoan language and culture in both the homeland, but especially the diaspora. Although there are more than 800,000 Samoans around the globe, it is estimated that fewer than half of them actually speak Samoan and this is only getting smaller as the population continues to grow overseas. This has meant that there is a great lack of resources to teach Samoan language and culture.

Proposed Solution

The aim of this project is to increase accessibilty to Samoan language resources for children in order to encourage language learning within the whole family. By partnering with the Leulumoega Fou Fine Arts School in the Independent State of Sāmoa, we will conduct a week-long workshop in-person to draft and produce a story outline for short children’s books that can be published. As creative storytellers and artists proficient in Samoan language, the secondary students from the vocational school will be commissioned to formulate a story around a central Samoan theme relevant to children. They will create illustrations to be published as a short story book, both online and in print. This weeklong workshop will focus on creating the story and an outline of the images to be produced. The students will be given a month to create the rest of the images.

The target community includes at the following levels: 1) local student artisans in Sāmoa, 2) Samoan children in selected local schools in Sāmoa, 3) school and church programs in American Sāmoa, Hawaiʻi. As the Leulumoega Fou School of fine arts in only vocational school for fine arts, this will be the base focus community as their network will be branched out to U.S. territories and the Continent.

Outcomes and Outputs

The project contains three main components: (1) the in-person workshop between facilitators from within Sāmoa and in American Sāmoa and Hawaiʻi (May) (2) online follow-up workshop and development sessions (May-August), and (3) publication and launch (September).

In March to April, the Core Team Members will meet with the Advisory Committee to plan for the in-person workshop, setting milestones and deadlines for the presentation and delivery. The Committee liasions in Sāmoa will meet with students and initiate an application process for the workshop and submit a list of 20 candidates. The students will then be assigned to teams will be according to their strengths and interests to align with the committee’s publication goals for early childhood education benchmarks in the Samoan language.

Additionally, we will produce a video of the workshops and publication process, which will be screened at the in-person launch in September and used for future marketing resources for the distribution of the students’ work.

In the final month, there will be two major components for distribution: (1) an official in-person launch, and (2) a vendor exhibition at the annual Teuila festival, which will be both held in September 2024 in Apia, Sāmoa. This two-part launch is designed to give students experience in presenting their projects. Our secretary Gabrielle Faʻaiʻuaso will present her video production and the launch will be livestreamed on our social media platforms; local media will also be invited to attend. As September is the annual international Teuila Festival, the committee will organise a vendor booth for the students to showcase and distribute their work. In both events, there will be opportunities for students to display and market their work and take online orders for the book.


Long Term Outcomes

This project is designed to be a springboard for wider initiatives to increase accessibility to educational materials for  while promoting the social and economic development of student artists. Local Indigenous Samoan artists will contribute to developing Samoan language literature for children, helping to address the lack of resources for early childhood learners and families.

In conducting this commission process for the student artists, we set the stage for a long-term development plan for an educational publishing house for Samoan language children’s literature, both in Sāmoa, American Sāmoa, and the diaspora. As we pilot this program and develop prototypes for books, we will partner with sponsors, such as the Vāimoana Early Learning Center and the Association of Samoan Language Nests, to produce more literature using Samoan artistic talent. These organizations will raise funds to continue to produce more books and to distribute them locally at an exhibition and have vendor space at the market to showcase and advertise their work while using ecommerce to promote online sales and orders.

In launching this initiative, we create a pathway for students artists to publish, market, and distribute their work in the publication industry in Sāmoa, the larger Pacific, and abroad. Creative networks for distribution in the wider region will be established, especially in the burgeoning diasporic communities in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Although these communicites have traditionally sustained local Pacific economies through remittances, this is an opportunity for local Samoan student artists to create export to overseas markets. As experts in the language and culture, these local artists also provide knowledge and literacy materials for Samoans learning their language, thus increasing their economic prospects at home. This exchange of ideas and exports are vital to creating sustainable and scalable opportunities for crossregional collaboration.

By producing Samoan language literature and supporting artistic development, this project will greatly address the eduction and social and economic developments sectors of the YPL program.