The Hakalama: The ʻAha Pūnana Leo’s Syllabic Hawaiian Reading Program

  • William H. WilsonEmail author
  • Kauanoe Kamanā
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 17)


Hawaiian is the first indigenous language recognized as official in a state of the United States. It is also a highly endangered language and the object of a school-based revitalization movement. At the base of the movement are the Pūnana Leo preschools. Hawaiian literacy is taught in them through the Hakalama, a syllabary using the Roman alphabet. Contemporary research has established that childhood cognitive development necessary to break words into syllables precedes the ability to break words into phonemes by approximately 2 years. The ʻAha Pūnana Leo seeks to take advantage of that research to produce a high level of literacy upon graduation from preschool. The Hakalama as developed by the ʻAha Pūnana Leo has similarities with the Japanese hiragana chart. The ʻAha Pūnana Leo has also developed a series of Hakalama mastery steps to produce the ability to read and write novel Hawaiian words and sentences. Assessments of students using the Hakalama shows that they are reaching a relatively high level of literacy by the end of preschool and that literacy in Hawaiian is transferring to literacy in English even before instruction in English.


High School Graduation Writing System Indigenous Language Short Vowel Language Speaker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to acknowledge assistance from the ʻAha Pūnana Leo, the Hale Kuamoʻo, and Nākoʻolani Warrington in collecting materials for this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian LanguageUniversity of Hawaiʻi at HiloHiloUSA

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