Native American Children's Books

Seeking Culturally Responsive Books About Native Americans for the Classroom

One evolving aspect of the BYU ARTS Partnership Native American Curriculum Initiative is the journey of helping classroom teachers choose culturally accurate and authentic literature. As more Native American authors write from an authentic voice and position, the time has come to replace many Native American theme books used in classrooms for more affirming authentic literature. Following is a three-part process we have created to help in the literature review process. Each part has questions that guide the process. 

Three-Part Process for Vetting Books

  1. Look at the cover of the book paying attention to the author and illustrator, read the inside flaps of book covers, the foreword and notes.
  2. Digest the book's words and illustrations.
  3. Consider how the book will enrich your students' understanding of Native indigenous cultures.

Highly Recommended Books

We are happy to share book recommendations with teachers with our three-step process for vetting Native American children's books as described above. While these books can get any teacher started with a culturally rich and responsive collection of children's books, we invite teachers to do their own research to vet and determine the best books to use in their classroom. Acquiring knowledge on the content and context of these books empowers teachers with personal connections to the content and offers empathy to share with students.

The following three lists describe 1) the books we personally enjoy and readily share with educators to use in the classroom, 2) books we sometimes use, but make sure to point out inaccuracies or concerns, and 3) books we have set aside from our own library.

Highly Recommended Books about Native Americans
    More highly recommended books about Native Americans

    Good Books with Some Concerns

    • The Blue Roses by Linda Boyden and Illustrated by Amy Cordova (Concern: Homogenizes Native American cultures by not being tribe specific.)
    • Brother Eagle, Sister Sky with paintings by Susan Jeffers
    • Storm Maker's Tipi by Paul Goble
    • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Concern: It does not provide the authentic recipe for Southwest Fry Bread and it says Navajo were given yeast by the federal government, but they were given Baking Soda.)
    • Dancing with the Indians by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Samuel Byrd


    Books We Have Set Aside

    • Ten Little Rabbits by Virginia Grossman and Sylvia Long

    • Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott

    • Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand

    • Red Cloud's War: Brave Eagle's Account of the Fetterman Fight by Paul Goble

    • How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend by Jerrie Oughton, illustrated by Lisa Desimini

    • Coyote Places the Stars by Harriet Peck Taylor


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