PIPESTONE — Pipestone National Monument launched its new 'Read with a Ranger' program Thursday afternoon.

"We are really interested in getting Dakota children, as well as children from other tribes, connected not only with the quarry, but with their heritage," said program coordinator and Interpretive Park Ranger Jessica Borden. Knowing that oral tradition is a key component of many tribal cultures, Borden thought reading stories would be a fitting way to invite that connection.

Borden recruited fellow Interpretive Park Ranger Gabrielle Drapeau, who is of Dakota descent, to lead the program, and 'Read with a Ranger' was born.

The free program begins at 3 p.m. each Thursday for six weeks, with a final event Aug. 8. Children ages 12 and younger are invited to interact with the story and participate in an optional activity following the reading. Each session lasts 30 to 60 minutes.

The stories selected feature Native American characters and themes. They are engaging to children, Borden said, but also include a moral component.

Along with the reading, "The Pipestone Indian Shrine Association (a partner organization of Pipestone National Monument) has graciously agreed to sponsor a coloring contest associated with the story series, so each week the children will receive a coloring sheet related to the content of the story that is being read," Borden added. "Children can turn in the entries anytime during the week following their story session, and entries will be on display within the Visitor Center. Winners will be selected in mid-August following the final session of the story series."

Borden said she wanted to incorporate some language-learning into the program. Each week, children will learn a new Dakota word that relates to that week's story.

"This week, the participants learned the Dakota name for one of the key characters in the book — the magpie — which was also the subject of this week's coloring sheet," Borden said. "As part of the storytelling process, the children would speak the Dakota word when the story prompted them to do so."

Borden added that she hopes to include language workshops in the future.

Participants in 'Read with a Ranger' are asked to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early and sign in at the Visitor Center. The location of the reading may vary, and rangers can provide instructions. Questions can be directed to (507) 825-5464 or pipe_interpretation@nps.gov.