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Children's Literature

There are many wonderful children's books available that teach and explore different aspects of Aboriginal culture, history, and experiences.  For early learners, reading stories is a great way to introduce a variety of topics and start  discussions.  In First Nations culture, storytelling is a way of passing on knowledge.  The following video features author Dr. Jo-Ann Archibald discussing Aboriginal storytelling and what teachers can do to prepare themselves before sharing Aboriginal stories.

Children's Literature for teaching Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): Specifically empathy and intercultural understanding

Most, if not all, early childhood educators read children’s books to their class already. All that is required is for educators to thoughtfully consider using children’s books to introduce SEL concepts such as Social Awareness (CASEL, 2012). There are many excellent books available that introduce Aboriginal culture and the experience of residential schools that can be used to teach children empathy.  All that is required is for teachers to be aware of the opportunity these books provide.

Teachers can implement SEL into the classroom with individual lessons using children’s literature. CASEL (2012) stated that classroom teachers can support children’s social and emotional development by directly teaching social and emotional skills.  In terms of specific implementation, it was found that the most effective way to teach SEL is to use a step-by-step approach, active forms of learning (such as classroom discussions and cooperative learning), to focus a sufficient amount of time on skill development, and to set explicit learning goals (Durlak et al., 2011).  Teachers must make a conscious decision to organize each lesson with specific SEL goals in mind. 

Some of the children’s books listed below are quite explicit in describing the abuse that occurred at residential schools.  It is important for educators to be aware of their student’s cognitive and emotional capacities.  Knafo et al. (2009) noted that highly distressed children, when exposed to knowledge of another’s negative emotions, might become overly anxious and unable to empathize with others. Knafo et al. (2009) emphasized that empathy does not only depend on one’s emotional knowledge, but also on the ability to regulate their own emotions. Therefore, children must have the opportunity to discuss their own feelings and emotions, and practice managing their emotions (both positive and negative) in the classroom. Teachers may also need to simplify some of the stories and concepts while reading some of the books (as stated in the annotated bibliography).

Apihtawikosisan Blog


This is a blog post by a Metis mother about teaching her young children about the Residential Schools in Canada.  

Click on the image to go to the blog.

Literacy Seed Kit Website

This website was developed by Northlands School Division, Edmonton Public School Division and Alberta Education. The 76 book collection was created as a travelling classroom library to support the need for culturally relevant resources. The collection contains fiction and non-fiction books in a wide range of genres. 

Click on the image to go to the website.

Strong Nations

This website lists a range of Aboriginal children's books with links to purchase.  There are also guided reading series and resource lists available.  Worth checking out.

Click on the image to go to the website.

Printable Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography provides not only the title and authors of books, but also gives a brief summary and may include suggestions on how to best use the literature. I have found a number of comprehensive annotated bibliographies that are helpful to guide teachers when searching for children's literature about Aboriginal culture, history, and contemporary realities. 

Aboriginal Children's Books Bibliography by Dr. Jan Hare

This annotated bibliography was compiled by Indigenous scholar and educator, Dr. Jan Hare.  It is organized by categories ranging from ABC books to specific First Nations stories, including Cree, Dene, Métis, and Ojibiway.

Click on the image to download.

Residential School Annotated Bibliography by Danielle Desjardins


This annotated bibliography describes children's books that can be used to introduce the experience of Residential Schools in Canada. There are suggestions for discussions to connect to Social and Emotional Learning, specifically drawing upon the stories to elicit and discuss emotional responses, focusing on nurturing empathy for others.

Click on the image to download.

Bringing Métis Children's Literature to Life by Wilfred Burton

This teacher guidebook for GDI Publications by Wilfred Burton includes an annotated bibliography for Métis books, as well as lessons to go with each book. Not only will teachers be able to teach about the Métis but they will also utilize strategies that foster and promote literacy development (listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and representing).

Click on the image to download

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