As I grow, learn, and unlearn things I was taught during childhood that weren’t true, the more I understand that many of the books we have read and still read at Thanksgiving are problematic, inaccurate, and insensitive. Today, I share Thanksgiving holiday children’s books with an eye for accuracy.
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Why are many books about Thanksgiving problematic?
Many books about Thanksgiving that were published in the past and some still today do not accurately represent American Indians or anything really about the so-called “first” Thanksgiving.
Over the years, I have been reading and learning a lot through the American Indians in Children’s Literature website established Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo. I highly recommend reading all that you can on the site.
November is Native American Heritage Month
Instead of filling your read-aloud list with “Thanksgiving” books, perhaps read books written by Native Americans instead with your students.
Dr. Reese gives us some points to remember when selecting Native stories.
- Choose Books That Are Tribally Specific
- Use Present Tense Verbs To Talk About Native Nations
- Choose Books Written By Native Writers
- Read Books By Native Writers All Year Long
Here are some books to get you started.
Board Books by Native Americans
With a focus on gratitude and amazing photographs, May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp is a must-have for young children.
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith is another one with positive messaging. It’s all about appreciating the little things that can make us so deeply happy.
Monique Gray Smith also has some picture books some of which are featured below.
Learn all about color is Cree and English in Black Bear, Red Fox by Julie Flett.
Julie Flett also has some picture books some of which are featured below.
Picture Books by Native Americans
Jennifer Faria a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation illustrated Finding Moose. In this book, we walk through nature with a grandfather and grandson as they look for a moose. As they walk through nature we learn about things we would find there in both English and Ojibwemowin. Will they see a moose? The book was written by Sue Farrell Holler.
I Hope by Monique Gray Smith shares a book of hopes for our children and all asks children what their hopes are. A great conversation. Available in Cree, French, and English. Listen to the author share about the book HERE.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp of Mohawk showcases the good morning ritual of giving thanks to Mother Earth each day.
We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell definitely draws on Dr. Reese’s point of choosing books in the present tense which also shines a light on history and concerns of today.
Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie is a song. The first time I enjoyed this book I read it and admired Flett’s illustrations. Then, I pulled up the song by the same name on YouTube and listened while paging through the text and illustrations and that was a moving and beautiful experience. This would be a great pick if you enjoy book tea parties. It’s definitely one to savor.
We All Play by Julie Flett showcases animals and children playing in and with nature. The glossary in the book contains Cree words for the animals in the book.
In Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child, a young girl and her uncle attended a powwow full of dance, food, and community. The girl’s vivid imagination has her dreaming of another type of powwow where all the dancers are dogs.
Finding My Dance by Ria Thundercloud is about the role dance has played in Ria Thundercloud’s life including the ups and downs and staying connected to her home. This is a true story.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard is not only a beautiful story of family but it contains amazing endpapers and has more back matter in a picture book than any other that I have seen. Because we have so much learning to do about Native Americans, I appreciate all the backmatter that is included by so many Native American picture book authors and illustrators.
Berry Song by Michaela Goade is a gorgeous book celebrating the bounty of the land, the wisdom of our elders, and the connections to our ancestors.
Printable List of Books for Kids by Native American Authors and Illustrators
Grab a printable book list of the titles shared above. Just click the purple rectangular button with a printer on it below.
Gratitude and Thankfulness Books for Children
Many of us use Thanksgiving as a day of reflection focusing on gratitude and being thankful. This is something that Native Americans do daily. Highlight the importance of giving thanks with these books.
Giving Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Denise Kiernan focuses on thankfulness and having a common date that the nation could center on gratitude with friends and family.
For even more books about gratitude, check out the list below.
More Thanksgiving Books for Kids Resources
What Do We Do All Day? shares a list of multicultural books for Thanksgiving.—> See the List of Multicultural Thanksgiving Books
Oyate’s List of Thanksgiving Books to AVOID.—->See the List of Books to Avoid
I hope these resources help you educate the children in your life.