We are quickly approaching Orange Shirt Day on September 30th! Orange Shirt Day was started to honour the history of children who were sent to residential schools and give an opportunity for everyone to learn more about the history. If you’re looking for a way to start introducing kids to residential schools in an age appropriate way, this list can help. We have also included some books in this list that are just plain fun and offer an Indigenous perspective.
You’ll find these suggestions from Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer Shannon Perez in order from the youngest reader to the oldest.
Age: 3 to 6 Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard shows how much fry bread is a part of Indigenous identity, culture and family. The book includes both the author’s family in the photos and in the recipe he shares with the readers at the end. Fry Bread is the recipient of the Sibert Medal. Bonus: here is a video link to the author reading his book.
Age: 3 to 8 In true Robert Munsch style, Munsch delivers an exciting story about blackflies and mosquitoes. Follow along as Helen saves her father, sister and the animals of the forest from the sixteen gazillion blackflies and mosquitoes. This fun book made the list because it is illustrated by Jay Odjick, an artist and writer from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin community, just outside of Maniwaki, Quebec.
Age: 5 to 9 When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett describes a conversation between a grandchild and her grandmother. The questions seem innocent but the answers allude to the loneliness of residential schools. This book touches the broader themes of the legacy of residential schools. This book was popular with workshop participants at Inspire 2019!
4. Spirit Bear and Children Make History: Cindy Blackstock and Eddy Robinson
Age: 5 to 9 This free eBook follows Spirit Bear to an important human rights case happening in Ottawa, Ontario, he makes the LONG trip (by train, his favourite way to travel) to go and watch, and to stand up for First Nations kids. And he isn’t the only one! Lots of children come too—to listen, and to show they care. Spirit Bear knows that children can change the world because he’s there to see it happen. This is the story of how kids—kids just like you—made a difference… with a bit of help from some bears and other animals along the way!
Age: 6 to 9 Stolen Words by Melanie Florence is of a poignant story of a moment between a grandfather and his granddaughter sharing how the grandfather lost his words at residential schools. Will the grandfather find his words again?
Age: 9 to 11 Fatty Legs, by Christy Jordon-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton is a good book for grades 6 and 7. Feelings such as anticipation, fear, humiliation and perseverance are explored in this book in a way that students can relate to. Fatty Legs introduces residential schools without describing graphic abuse.
We’ve linked to Amazon for clear titles but if you can support a local bookstore with your purchase that would be amazing. These books are just a small sample of the great books that are available; you can find other suggestions in lists like this one. And if you’ve read an excellent book that we’ve missed let us know! You can email the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee anytime at [email protected].
Adults: If you haven’t already checked out our list for you, see Indigenous Justice Book Suggestions (Adults).