Step into Learning Indigenous Languages with Children’s Books

Children’s books are a beginner-friendly and engaging way to learn a new language. We’ve put together a list of children’s books that introduce Indigenous languages, celebrate language revitalization, and are fun for kids. These books are appropriate for read-aloud or independent reading. Extend the exploration with the whole family using the ideas following each book! 

 

Ispík kákí péyakoyak | When We Were Alone 
By David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Language: Swampy Cree

Hot off the press, Ispík kákí péyakoyak/When We Were Alone includes Swampy Cree syllabics, Roman orthography, and the original English. 

When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength. When a young girl helps tend her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away.

Extend your learning
Hear the pronunciation of Cree words used within the English Edition of When We Were Alone.

 

Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine
By Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead
Illustrated by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch
Language: Nakota

Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine incorporates Nokata words within the text. A glossary provided at the end of the book lists the Nakota words phonetically along with their definitions. 

When Siha Tooskin—Paul Wahasaypa—finds himself not feeling at all well, he learns that there are answers for him from the healing practices of his own people and from Western medicine. Visit the hospital with Paul as he learns more about where “modern medicine” really comes from and how we can all benefit from Indigenous and Western healers as Paul seeks the best medicine for his own wellness. Antibiotics, bandages, cough syrup, ointment, pills…modern medicine has so much to offer when we become ill. But are medical science, health, and healing practices actually modern? 

Extend your learning

Continue exploring the Nakota language with the other books in the Siha Tooskin Knows series. 

Listen to the pronunciations in this reading from Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine featuring artist Chloe Bluebird Mustooch.

The Eagle Mother
Mothers of Xsan, Book 3
By Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson)
Illustrated by Natasha Donovan
Language: Gitxsanimx

Learn about the life cycle of these stunning birds of prey, the traditions of the Gitxsan, and how bald eagles can enrich their entire ecosystem. Gitxsanimx words are incorporated throughout the story, and the Gitxsan moons are listed and defined at the end of the book. Evocative illustration brings the Xsan’s flora and fauna to life for middle years readers in book three of the Mothers of Xsan series.

Extend your learning

Practice the Gitxsan language using the other books in the Mothers of Xsan series including The Sockeye Mother and The Grizzly Mother. 

Hear the pronunciation of some Gitxsan words found throughout the Mothers of Xsan series.

Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw
By William Dumas
Illustrated by Leonard Paul
Language: Rocky Cree

Out of an important archaeological discovery came this unique story about a week in the life of Pīsim, a young Cree woman, who lived in the mid 1600s. In the story, created by renowned storyteller William Dumas, Pīsim begins to recognize her miskanaw—the path for her life—and to develop her gifts for fulfilling that path. The story is brought to life by the rich imagery of Mi’kmaw artist Leonard Paul, and is accompanied by sidebars on Cree language and culture, archaeology and history, maps, songs, and more. 

Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw includes a full glossary at the back of the book, as well as Cree vocabulary highlighted throughout the book.

Extend your learning

Download the free app from the iOS store to discover more about Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw. Hear narration from the story, and pronunciation of words in the Cree Glossary. 

Watch this video of William Dumas sharing a behind-the-scenes look at Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw. 

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock
By Dallas Hunt
Illustrated by Amanda Strong
Language: Cree

During an unfortunate mishap, young Awâsis loses Kôhkum’s freshly baked world-famous bannock. Not knowing what to do, Awâsis seeks out a variety of other-than-human relatives willing to help. What adventures are in store for Awâsis? 

The book includes a pronunciation guide for the Cree words used throughout, and the recipe for Kôhkum’s world-famous bannock.

Extend your learning 

Practise the Cree words for baking ingredients with the recipe for Kôhkum’s world-famous bannock! 

Listen to the pronunciation of Cree words from the story.

*BONUS Coming Soon* 

 

Stand Like a Cedar
By Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Carrielynn Victor

When you go for a walk in nature, who do you see? What can we learn from the animals around us? Follow along as Nicola Campbell’s lyrical storytelling takes the reader on a journey through the wilderness to discover the animals of British Columbia, their names in the Nłe7kepmxcín or Halq’emeylem languages, and the teachings they have for us.

Watch our social media for news about Stand Like A Cedar and more upcoming 2021 books that feature words in Indigenous languages. 

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