Page Updated January 19, 2005
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Cynthia Leitich Smith
Native American Themes in Books for Children and Teens
Today, I opened a major publisher's fall catalog and cringed. Native American creation stories were marketed boldly as "mythology" on one page. The Christmas story was marketed as "fact" on another. Granted, there are Christian Indians, just as there are Native people of various religious beliefs. Each should be respected. But traditional Native religions are still practiced by many tribal members. Would a publisher market Christian or Jewish beliefs as "myths"? I hope not. (This paragraph added 07/07/01).
These are big problems, but we're not helpless in dealing with them.
What We Can Do
We can make sure the personal libraries of our children (and those we love) include quality books with Native themes (and make sure they have access to others at their libraries).
We can educate ourselves and our children about today's Native American Indians.
We can advocate for the accurate and integrated representation of Native American Indian peoples, contemporary issues, and history in school curriculums (through books, Native American Indian speakers, films, and more).
We can encourage and support Native American Indian storytellers, authors, and illustrators.
We can share stories inspired by our own Native American Indian communities and experiences.
We can honor our commitments to the education of all children, including Native American Indian children.
This is one of several pages on this site related to Native American Indian children's books. Please follow the links immediately below to visit the others.
A brief note on the terms "Native American," "American Indian" etc. I have spoken with members of the greater Indian community(ies) who have strong feelings in favor of certain language as well as with people who just don't care. Because the purpose of this web site is to offer information to a wide audience, both internal and external, about related children's books, we are currently employing both. This way folks looking on the web under one or the other will still find this information.
The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin is pleased to announce that Dr. Loriene Roy has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Tocker Foundation (http://www.tocker.org/) to support, "If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything." The research program promotes reading at schools on or near Native American Indian reservations through building library collections and organizing reading promotion events. Twelve schools in seven states are currently participating in the project; new schools are added each August. Results to date indicate noticeable improvements in literacy scores for participating children.
note: we strongly support this program and encourage anyone
who cares about literacy, achievement, and Native children to visit "If
I Can Read, I Can Do Anything."