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Indigenous Children's Literature

Getting Started

Critical literacy requires us to go beyond what we read on the page and to consider the larger narrative in which a text is situated, asking questions about who created a text and why. Critical Indigenous literacy asks us to think about authorship and identity in relation to the stories and teachings we trust as readers. It also asks readers to think critically about Indigenous representations (or lack thereof) within a text. 

This page is intended for researchers, teachers, parents, and guardians learning about critical Indigenous literacy for children's resources. 

This video was created by student librarian Xaanja Free for their LIBR 520 class. For additional resources on Indian in the Cupboard check out Debbie Reese's blog here. Free has also created a handout to accompany the video:

Critical Indigenous Literacy

Here you will find information on critical Indigenous literacy and a tool for reviewing potential bias in a resource. You will also find a resource on how to locate the traditional territory that you live on and/or are occupying. 

#OwnVoices

Here you will find information about the relationship between authorship/storyteller, identity, and how to find Indigenous authored resources. Corinne Duyvis created the hashtag #OwnVoices “to recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from the same diverse group”. 

We understand that #OwnVoices has become a less favourable term as it has created unsafe spaces for some authors & creators to discuss their relationship to their work. Our goal is to prioritize resources that are authored by people who belong to the communities and experiences they are writing about; within this context we utilize #OwnVoices because it is the most accurate, meaningful, and respectful representation of an author's relationship to a community.

Worldviews & Protocols

Critical Indigenous Literacy Kits

In the boxes above you will have learned about: the traditional territory you live on and why this is relevant to you, critical literacy, critical Indigenous literacy, how you can invite an Elder or guest to your classroom, and place-based learning; now it's time to bring this together!

Here you will find X̱wi7x̱wa's Critical Literacy Kits to support young learners and those teaching them. The kits include suggested resources, further reading for instructors, and guiding questions for your classroom. If you have an idea for a kit that is not covered below you can adapt this document to your classroom or home on any given topic. For a list of children's books at X̱wi7x̱wa click here. 

Xwi7xwa Library kits:

 

Critical Indigenous Literacy at UBC Okanagan Library:

To learn about the Critical Literacy Kit work from Education Library, Okanagan Library, & X̱wi7x̱wa Library please see:

Emily Fornwald, Karleen Delaurier-Lyle, Sajni Lacey, Wendy Traas, Stephanie Marston & Rio Picollo (2021) Repurposing Problematic Books into Critical Literacy Kits, Collection Management, DOI: 10.1080/01462679.2021.1905576

Critical Literacy Kits at the Education Library

Picture of Critical Literacy Kit

 

The Education Library has five Critical Literacy Kits available, each with a unique theme. The themes and books in each kit can be explored through the activities suggested below.

Critical Literacy Kit: Cultural Appropriation

The books and learning materials in this Critical Literacy Kit can be used to support discussion about the appropriation of Indigenous cultures in children’s literature and education resources, as well as the impacts of cultural appropriation.

Kit includes the following books:

  • They Put on Masks by Byrd Baylor 
  • Ten Little Rabbits by Virginia Grossman 
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes by Lenore Look 
  • Curious George Learns the Alphabet by H.A. Rey 
  • Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell 
  • Mouse Days by Leo Lionni 
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman 
  • George and Martha Encore by James Marshall 
  • Plurals by Joan Hanson 
  • Native Americans by Mike Stotter 
  • The Native Peoples by Robert Livesey & A.G. Smith 
  • You Ought to See Herbert’s House by Doris Herold Lund
  • Sounds of a Powwow by Bill Martin Jr. with Peggy Brogan and John Archambault

Additional Resources:

Critical Literacy Kit: Traditional Stories & Storytelling

The books and learning materials in this Critical Literacy Kit can be used to explore the topic of Indigenous stories and storytelling, and the impact of non-Indigenous authors creating, changing, or sharing Indigenous stories without permission from, or collaboration with, the appropriate Indigenous communities.

Kit includes the following books:

  • Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale by Gerald McDermott 
  • Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble 
  • Her Seven Brothers by Paul Goble  
  • Doctor Coyote by John Bierhorst 
  • Dogrib Legends, Book 6: Tsequa and the Chief's Son by Virginia Football 
  • Dragonfly's Tale by Kristina Rodanas 
  • Once Upon a Totem by Christie Harris  
  • Raven's Light: A Myth from the People of the Northwest Coast by Susan Hand Shetterly  
  • Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story by Robert D. San Souci 
  • The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin 
  • The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story by Penny Pollock 
  • Tikkatoo's Journey: An Inuit Folk Tale by Amanda Loverseed 
  • Told-Again Tales from Many Lands: Indian Tales by Grace E. Potter 
  • Frog Girl by Paul Owen Lewis 
  • Storm Boy by Paul Owen Lewis 
  • The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola 

Additional Resources:

Critical Literacy Kit: Troubling Tropes

The books and learning materials in this Critical Literacy Kit can be used to learn about and discuss common harmful literary tropes, including the “Noble Savage” or “Ecological Indian,” the “Indian Princess,” and the “Vanishing Indian,” in fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults.

Kit includes the following books:

  • Little Owl Indian by Hetty Burlingame Beatty 
  • The Forest Has Eyes by Bev Doolittle 
  • Moonstick: The Seasons of the Sioux by Eve Bunting 
  • Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers 
  • Encounter by Jane Yolen 
  • Houses of Bark by Bonnie Shemie 
  • Mounds of Earth and Shell by Bonnie Shemie 
  • Houses of Wood by Bonnie Shemie  
  • My Name is Pocahontas by William Accorsi 
  • The Frog Princess: A Tlingit Legend from Alaska by Eric A. Kimmel 
  • The Double Life of Pocahontas by Jean Fritz 
  • The Time of the Indian by Kenneth Ulyatt
  • Indians of the Eastern Woodlands by Rae Bains
  • Before the Indian by Julian May

Additional Resources:

Critical Literacy Kit: Exploration, "Contact," and Colonization

The books and learning materials in this Critical Literacy Kit can be used to discuss depictions of “exploration” or “First Contact” and colonization in children’s fiction and non-fiction.

Kit includes the following books:

  • Corn is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki 
  • Explore with Leif Eriksson by Natalie Hyde 
  • Hooray for Columbus by Jerry Aten 
  • Discovery of America by Jessica Claridge 
  • Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road by Catherine E. Chambers 
  • Wagons West: Off to Oregon by Catherine E. Chambers 
  • Cheyenne Again by Eve Bunting 
  • The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle by Jewel H. Grutman 
  • Lewis and Clark by Andrew Santella
  • Lewis and Clark: Opening the American West by Ellen Rodger 
  • Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll 
  • Encounter by Jane Yolen 
  • Sacagawea: The Making of a Legend by Rick Book 

Additional Resources:

Critical Literacy Kit: Reconsidering the Canon

This kit includes literary award winners and other children's and young adult fiction widely considered to be "classics." Many of the books in this kit should be read with a critical eye due to their depictions of Indigenous peoples; however, some of the books included are harmful due to their depictions of other members of IBPOC communities.

Kit includes the following books:

  • Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling 
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks 
  • Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman  
  • Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop 
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
  • If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss 
  • Tintin in the Congo by Hergé  
  • Tintin in America by Hergé
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare 
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech 
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell 
  • Caddie Woodlawn by Trina Schart Hyman