Culturally Authentic Books
The Brown Bookshelf, designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers.
The Conscious Kid Library is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in young children. They promote access to diverse children’s books that center underrepresented and oppressed groups.
Lee and Low Books, a family run company committed to publishing diverse books that are about everyone, for everyone. They are dedicated to cultural authenticity.
Diverse Book Finder, a database collection of more than 2,000 children’s picture books featuring people of color and Indigenous people.
Only 1% of the children’s books published in the U.S. in 2016 featured Indigenous characters, and even fewer (1/4 of the 1% = 8 books total) were written by Indigenous authors. The following are by Indigenous authors.
First Nations Reading List – The staff members of First Nations Development Institute have compiled a list of what they consider to be essential reading for anyone interested in the Native American experience.
I Am Not A Number
by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland
When Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school, she is confused, frightened and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite being told to do otherwise.
You Hold Me Up
by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel
Written to prompt a dialogue among young people, their care providers and educators about reconciliation and the importance of the connections children make with their friends, classmates and families.
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
by Wab Kinew, illustrated by Joe Morse
Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book.
When We Were Alone
by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family?
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker
by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon
Tells the story of Hiawatha, a strong Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves — a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.
Home to Medicine Mountain
By Chiori Santiago, illustrated by Judith Lowry
Two young brothers are separated from their family and sent to live in a government-run Indian residential school in the 1930s—an experience shared by generations of Native American children throughout North America. At these schools, children were forbidden to speak their Indian languages and made to unlearn their Indian ways. Sadly, they were often not able to go home to their families for summer vacation. Native American artist Judith Lowry based this story on the experiences of her father and her Uncle Stanley.
by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
The affirming story of how a contemporary Native girl turns to her family and community to help her dance find a voice.
Tip: Cynthia Leitich Smith has written and/or illustrated many high quality children’s books.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
by Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac
A picture book about gratitude, which features Cherokee words and the Cherokee alphabet. From celebrating “the ancestors’ sacrifices to preserve our way of life” to a Grandmother revealing what the Cherokee name of a newborn baby will be, the people give thanks.
Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey From Darkness Into Light
by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Karen Clarkson
Tells the story of the author’s family move from Oklahoma Choctaw country to Pasadena, TX. Spanning 50 years, Saltypie describes the problems encountered by his Choctaw grandmother — from her orphan days at an Indian boarding school to hardships encountered in her new home on the Gulf Coast.
Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock
By Aslan Tudor
At the not-so-tender age of 8, Aslan arrived in North Dakota to help stop a pipeline. A few months later he returned – and saw the whole world watching. Read about his inspiring experiences in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom
by Tim Tingle and Jeanne Rorex Bridges
A fictional picture book inspired by true tales of Native Americans in the Southeastern United States aiding African Americans who were escaping slavery. In what is Mississippi today, the Bok Chitto river was the border between the Choctaw nation and a plantation. Before the Trail of Tears, if an enslaved person escaped into Choctaw land, the slave owner could not follow to catch him.
The Birchbark House
By Louise Erdrich
This charming, yet unstintingly realistic novel tells the story of Omakayas, a girl whose name means Little Frog, who is growing up near Lake Superior in the 1840s. This makes a great companion series for those who love the Little House on the Prairie Books
The People Shall Continue
by Simon Ortiz and Sharol Graves
This groundbreaking tale of American Indian history, oppression, and resistance was first written in 1977 and was recently re-released for today’s children. In just 24 pages, this picture book powerfully shares history that spans from first contact with the Europeans to modern struggles against poverty and suffering.
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
by Bruchac, Joseph
After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay and other Navajo men are recruited by the Marines to become Code Talkers, sending messages during World War II in their native tongue.
Tip: Joseph Bruchac has written many books for all ages, including multiple creation story books.
By Louise Erdrich
Won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and introduced many of the characters that populated her subsequent books. The book spans sixty years and centers on the love triangle between members of the Ojibwa tribe living on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota
Tip: Louise Erdrich has written an entire brilliant series based on these same characters.
By Joyce Harjo
In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world.
by Tommy Orange
Multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Finalist for Pulitzer Prize. Local writer.