Books can take kids to worlds they might not otherwise be able to access—and that includes giving them a glimpse into other ways of life.
Here are 5 great children’s books that will help your kids understand and appreciate the richness of Native American history, storytelling, and customs. November is National Native American Heritage Month, so it’s a great time to start—but be sure not to end the learning there!
Explore a Cherokee legend
The book Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story tells the funny tale of how light was brought to the dark side of the world by a small but mighty spider.
The author, Geri Keams, was born in the Painted Desert of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and belongs to the Streak-of-Black-Forest Clan. She was a Native American cultural consultant during the making of Disney’s animated feature, “Pocahontas.”
Ask your kids: Was there ever something people thought you were too small to do, that you were able to do anyway? Were you proud, like Grandmother Spider?
Learn about Native American food
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story describes not only a staple food of many Native tribes, but also explains how traditions can change across time and regions. Young kids will love the fun and powerful verse, while older kids can dig deeper with the author’s historical notes on why certain words or illustrations were included.
It’s written by Kevin Noble Maillard, a member of the Seminole Nation, Mekusukey band.
Ask your kids: What are your favorite traditional foods that are associated with our family or certain holidays? What do they mean to you?
Experience an Ojibwe tradition
Bowwow Powwow is a modern-day portrayal of a Native American girl who attends a traditional powwow—and then dreams one up for her pup, complete with music and jingle dresses and campfire food.
Author Brenda Child included both Ojibwe culture and language in the story, so you can learn some Ojibwe words!
Ask your kids: What are the most fun parts of our family parties? What parts of a powwow would you be most excited to see?
Open their eyes to Native American history
When teaching our kids about other cultures, it’s important to include the harder parts of history. When We Were Alone finds a Cree grandmother explaining her experience in residential school, where Native American children were assimilated into English culture and weren’t allowed to dress how they wanted or speak their own languages. It’s a moving story of strength and family bonds.
David A. Robertson is of Swampy Cree heritage and has also written a number of award-winning graphic novels about Indigenous experiences.
Ask your kids: How would you feel if you were forced to give up something very important to you? Is it more important for everyone to be the same, or for everyone to live the way they want?
Relate to Native culture, today
In the present-day story Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher by Becky Ray McCain, Kimmy has bad dreams—but her Chippewa grandmother helps by teaching her about dreamcatchers.
Your child might have seen dreamcatchers before (and, unfortunately, may have had bad dreams before, too)—this book uses the Native American protection charm to offer comfort, and even includes instructions for making your own!
Hearing stories about diverse cultures and relating them to their own lives helps develop kids’ respect and empathy for all types of people, and deepens their understanding of both their own culture and the cultures of others. Add some of these Native American stories to your child’s bookshelf today!
You can find more great books centering Native American experiences in our Amazon book lists—we also have suggestions for helping little ones learn to read, learning about LGBTQ families, and for sparking great conversations about race and diversity. Like the links in this post, some of these may be affiliate links; at ParentsTogether we’re a non-profit, and we’ll earn a percentage of whatever you spend. Thanks for your support!
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