O’siyo. To continue the celebration of National American Indian Heritage Month we turn to our children. What we teach our young is vital for their survival as they grow into adulthood. This includes the type of books we give young children to read. There are more books on the market for Native children today, many written by Native authors which is good. However, not all books written for Native children are innocent.
Some may be riddled with negative information that can cause more harm than good. For parents, teachers, and caregivers, who are not certain of which books to buy for their children, Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale have written a guide entitled Through Indian eyes: the native experience in books for children.
It is “a compilation of work by Native parents, educators, poets, and writers. It contains essays, poetry, critical reviews of more than 100 children’s books by and about Indian peoples, a guide to evaluating children’s books for anti-Indian bias, a recommended bibliography, and a resource section of Native publishers and organizations.” Here are several children’s books recommended by Children’s Literature Network and several other reliable Native sources.
“Choctaw author Tim Tingle tells the story of his famly’s move from Oklahome Choctaw country to Pasadena, Texas. Spanning fifty years, the book describes the problems encounted by his Choctaw grandmother from her orphan days at an Indian boarding school to hardships she met at her new home on the Texas Gult Coast. It is the story of one family’s efforts to honor the past while struggling to gain a foothold in modern America.”
“Matthew Eagletail is the star player for the Warriors, his basketball team on the Tsuu TÃina First Nation near Calgary. When his mother remarries, everything in Matthew’s life is suddenly different and new: a new school, a new father, five pesky new sisters, a new dog named Precious. Worst of all, he has to quit the Warriors.”
Excerpt: Chilchinbeto Native Publishes First Children’s Book, By Shondiin Silversmith, Navajo Times
“Growing up on the Navajo Nation leaves everyone with a few stories worth telling. At least that is how Ginny Sparks felt about growing up in Chilchinbeto, A.Z.., in the 1950s and ’60s, which gave her enough adventure-filled memories to fill more than one children’s book. I was born and raised in Chilchinbeto. I grew up in an era where there was no running water or electricity,” Sparks said. Sparks’ first book, The Adventures of Sunflower Girl: Grandmother and the Bull, is based on one such adventure that involved her grandmother, who lived near her in Chilchinbeto Chapter.”
Some of our favorites:
“There was a young Native girl in the village who loved horses… She led the horses to drink at the river. She spoke softly and they followed. People noticed that she understood horses in a special way.”
“This Hopi pourquoi tale explains the cause of a great drought and the events that brought about its end. In Oraibi, a drought-stricken village, two young children are abandoned. To divert his thoughts from hunger, the boy makes a toy hummingbird from a sunflower stalk. When his sister hurls it into the air, it comes to life, first bringing the children food, then journeying to the underworld to request rain from the fertility god, and finally reuniting the youngsters with their parents.”
For Native (and non-Native) Parents who would like to try writing their own books for Native children (wonderful idea) Ginny Sparks mentions Salina Bookshelf in Flagstaff, the region’s biggest publisher of children’s books written in Navajo and English. She also said that “as soon as she finished the transcript she sought out Dog Ear Publishing, an Indianapolis-based company that offers a variety of services for authors who want to self-publish.”
Kudos to Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale, The Navajo Times, Ginny Sparks, and all authors of books for children!
“If we don’t pass on some of these things they are going to die with us.”~ Ginny Sparks~
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”~Emilie Buchwald~