Reading Indigenous Children’s Literature

September 30 will mark the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation here in Canada. It’s an important new holiday as our country begins the difficult process of grappling with our colonial and colonizing history and the impacts, both intentional and unintentional, of this history on the Indigenous peoples of this land.

Throughout this week, I will be providing lists of some of my favorite books by Indigenous authors. Today’s list is for books whose intended audience is children (alphabetical by title).

Amik Loves School, Katherena Vermette (2015)

Part of a series on the Seven Grandfather Teachings, this picture book is about how Amik, a young boy who loves going to school, and his grandfather, a Residential School survivor, learn to understand one another’s different experiences of school. This would be a great and gentle introduction to Residential Schools for the littlest ones, while also providing teaching on wisdom and perspective-taking.

Be a Good Ancestor, Leona Prince (2022)

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book with an important message about the interconnectedness of all things. It teaches children to ‘be a good ancestor’ – in relation to the water, the land, birds, fish, animals, neighbours, thoughts, words, feelings, and oneself. Charming and insightful and appropriate for kids of any age.

Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich (1999)

This is the first book of a series of five that tells a multigenerational story of an Indigenous family, starting in the mid-nineteenth century until the near present day. This first story introduces readers to the seasonal cycles of Ojibwe life, while also tackling the trauma of the smallpox epidemic.

My Heart Fills with Happiness / Nijiikendam, Monique Gray Smith, with Anishinaabe translation by Angela Mesic and Margaret Noodin (2021)

This is a charming picture book about all of the things that makes one’s heart happy. This edition has an Anishinaabe translation; there are other bilingual editions for other Indigenous languages available, as well as a French translation.

Siha Tooskin Knows…. [Series], Charlene Bearhead (2020)

This series follows an even year-old Nakota boy as he learns about different facets of his culture from his beloved grandparents and sometimes even shares his knowledge with others. It’s charming and informative! (Primarily for early readers)

Stand like a Cedar, Nicola I. Campbell (2020)

This picture book for early readers explores the forests and rivers of the West through the eyes of its young Indigenous protagonist.

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