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Catalogue of picture books aims to teach kids about Indigenous culture, history

A collection of 25 Indigenous picture books were chosen to be included in a catalogue by the International Board on Books for Young People or IBBY, a non-profit that helps children access books and literacy programs. 

Lorisia MacLeod, of James Smith Cree Nation and coordinator with The Alberta Library, was on the selection committee for the project called From Sea to Sea: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books. Since last year the committee worked to choose from books published in Canada between 2018 and 2020.

“The hardest thing was just choosing which ones to not include because there’s been so many amazing artists and authors publishing,” MacLeod told CBC’s Edmonton AM

Edmonton AM6:57Indigenous books to share with your kids

We’ll talk about Indigenous publishing and get some picture book recommendations from a local librarian. 6:57

The project was started by IBBY in 2016 in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It was started to promote the reading and sharing of books among Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and youth, their families, librarians, educators, and community members.

In 2018, they released the first catalogue of 100 picture books by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit authors and illustrators. 

The current edition of 25 books was released on June 9. 

While picture books can be great for children to learn more about Indigenous cultures and experiences, MacLeod said they are also a unique resource for difficult topics like residential schools. 

Some of the books that touch on that topic include The Train by Jodie Callaghan about a young girl’s conversations with her uncle who was sent to a residential school on a train and I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, about her grandmother’s residential school experience. 

“While a young child may not be able to understand the entire story of residential schools … they can understand how difficult it might be to go to school and have someone say, ‘You can’t wear the shirt that you bought’ or ‘you have to cut your hair.’ You know, they can understand how much that would hurt,” she said. 

“And that can really provide a great foundational understanding for when they start learning about these topics in school.” 

Lorisia MacLeod, a co-ordinator with The Alberta Library, was on the selection committee to select 25 books to be added to a catalogue of picture books by Indigenous authors and illustrators. The catalogue now has 125 books in total. (John Ulan)

MacLeod said besides content, children will also be exposed to a variety of Indigenous art, clothes and jewelry shown in these books. 

“There’s a lot of elements of representation, especially with picture books that are just so empowering and important,” she said.

The books also include discussion questions at the back and MacLeod said that a teachers resource will be added later as well. 

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