Sunday, October 26, 2008

American Indians and November

With a few days left in October, librarians and teachers across the country are (likely) in the midst of planning activities about American Indians. Why? Because that month is "American Indian Heritage Month."

I urge parents, teachers, and librarians to provide children and patrons with books that portray American Indians in the present day. Given that Thanksgiving happens in November, there is strong precedent for doing the "Pilgrim and Indian" theme. Don't do it! You have the opportunity to disrupt the deeply embedded notion that American Indians and instruction about American Indians belong in the past.

The single best resource for you is an excellent book called A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. It's got critical reviews of hundreds of books that portray American Indians. If you can, get the book from Oyate. A paperback copy costs $37.00. If you were to try to get all the information on your own, you'd spend hours and a lot of money in copy machines and you still wouldn't get the perspective and depth you'll find in A Broken Flute. The phone number for Oyate is 510-848-6700.

If you have a friend who is a teacher, get him/her a copy as a gift. If you are able, get a copy for your local library and donate it in the name of someone you care about.

And, don't confine reading or teaching about American Indians to the month of November. Read books by writers like Cynthia Leitich Smith all year long.

1 comment:

Carys said...

"A Broken Flute" completely and totally changed the way I look at all manner of children's literature - not just the stories about American Indians. I was shocked and embarrassed at my own ignorance. It is a wonderful book and a fabulous resource that opened my eyes.