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October 29, 2018

Editor’s Picks: 6 Books to Deepen Your Students’ Understanding of Native American Heritage

By Scholastic Editors
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    November is National Native American Heritage Month and an excellent opportunity to teach your students about the contributions, cultures, and history of indigenous nations. Reading a wide variety of books together as a class is an important way to celebrate diverse Native cultures and learn more about the complex history of Native people and tribal governments in the United States. Here are six books to give your students deeper understanding of Native traditions, leaders, and experiences across the country.

    1. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp (Grades PreK-2)

    This book is a beautifully adapted version of the Thanksgiving Address, still spoken at ceremonial and governmental gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations, that reflects on their traditions of greeting each morning with gratitude for all living things.

    Why We Love It: A great way to teach gratitude to your students, this book also includes a basic Mohawk version of the message to help you give kids a sense of the Iroquoian language today.

    2. She Sang Promise by Jan Godown Annino (Grades 1-5)

    As the daughter of a Seminole woman and a white man, Betty Mae Jumper faced extreme discrimination as a child, but she persisted to earn a quality education that developed her skills as a nurse, journalist, alligator wrestler, community activist, and ultimately, the first female elected leader of the Seminole Nation.

    Why We Love It: This biography of her fascinating life is great way to introduce your students to one of the twentieth century’s influential Native American leaders.

    3. Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac (Grades 3-5)

    In this moving fictional story, fourth-grader Danny Bigtree discovers what it means to take pride in his heritage and keep cultural traditions a part of his family’s life in the city after they move away from the Mohawk reservation where he was raised.

    Why We Love It: This book is a powerful take on overcoming bullying and stereotypes, plus it’s a great way to show your students Native American heritage in a modern light.

    4. Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac (Grades 6-12)

    This historical fiction novel explores a crucial part of American history through the eyes of Ned Begay, a young Navajo man recruited to become a Marine during World War II and one of the courageous code talkers who saved countless American lives.

    Why We Love It: This book is an engaging way to help your students learn more about Native American veterans throughout American history.

    5. If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Grades 7-9)

    Engage your students in a coming-of-age story that examines Lewis "Shoe" Blake’s experiences navigating his home life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation and his school life as the only Native kid in his classes.

    Why We Love It: A poignant look at the struggles of poverty, this book also discusses developing friendships, the power of cultural memories, and the joy of rock 'n' roll.

    6. Dreaming in Indian edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale  (Grades 9-12)

    In this captivating anthology, young Native American artists and writers explore their own heritage, culture, and the contemporary issues that affect their communities through art, poetry, and short stories.

    Why We Love It: This book is an compelling way to give your students an understanding of Native heritage through the voices of the young leaders of today.

    November is National Native American Heritage Month and an excellent opportunity to teach your students about the contributions, cultures, and history of indigenous nations. Reading a wide variety of books together as a class is an important way to celebrate diverse Native cultures and learn more about the complex history of Native people and tribal governments in the United States. Here are six books to give your students deeper understanding of Native traditions, leaders, and experiences across the country.

    1. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp (Grades PreK-2)

    This book is a beautifully adapted version of the Thanksgiving Address, still spoken at ceremonial and governmental gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations, that reflects on their traditions of greeting each morning with gratitude for all living things.

    Why We Love It: A great way to teach gratitude to your students, this book also includes a basic Mohawk version of the message to help you give kids a sense of the Iroquoian language today.

    2. She Sang Promise by Jan Godown Annino (Grades 1-5)

    As the daughter of a Seminole woman and a white man, Betty Mae Jumper faced extreme discrimination as a child, but she persisted to earn a quality education that developed her skills as a nurse, journalist, alligator wrestler, community activist, and ultimately, the first female elected leader of the Seminole Nation.

    Why We Love It: This biography of her fascinating life is great way to introduce your students to one of the twentieth century’s influential Native American leaders.

    3. Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac (Grades 3-5)

    In this moving fictional story, fourth-grader Danny Bigtree discovers what it means to take pride in his heritage and keep cultural traditions a part of his family’s life in the city after they move away from the Mohawk reservation where he was raised.

    Why We Love It: This book is a powerful take on overcoming bullying and stereotypes, plus it’s a great way to show your students Native American heritage in a modern light.

    4. Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac (Grades 6-12)

    This historical fiction novel explores a crucial part of American history through the eyes of Ned Begay, a young Navajo man recruited to become a Marine during World War II and one of the courageous code talkers who saved countless American lives.

    Why We Love It: This book is an engaging way to help your students learn more about Native American veterans throughout American history.

    5. If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Grades 7-9)

    Engage your students in a coming-of-age story that examines Lewis "Shoe" Blake’s experiences navigating his home life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation and his school life as the only Native kid in his classes.

    Why We Love It: A poignant look at the struggles of poverty, this book also discusses developing friendships, the power of cultural memories, and the joy of rock 'n' roll.

    6. Dreaming in Indian edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale  (Grades 9-12)

    In this captivating anthology, young Native American artists and writers explore their own heritage, culture, and the contemporary issues that affect their communities through art, poetry, and short stories.

    Why We Love It: This book is an compelling way to give your students an understanding of Native heritage through the voices of the young leaders of today.

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