American Indians In Children's Literature

A small boy walked over to a display of books in the library. “Wait a minute.” He whispered to his mother, “I want to look at these Indian Books.” The boy’s eyes were blue luminous water as he thumbed through the pages of one book and then another. His mom came over to where we were standing and skimmed the row of books. “How about this one?” She asked. I tensed my shoulders and tightened my toes, she was holding a copy of The Education of Little Tree, a book I liked until I learned more about the author.

“Actually, that might not be the best choice.” I announced. 


Prior to his literary career as "Forrest," Carter was politically active for years in Alabama as an opponent to the civil rights movement: he worked as a speechwriter for segregationist Governor George Wallace of Alabama; founded the North Alabama Citizens Council (NACC) and an independent Ku Klux Klan group; and started the pro-segregation monthly titled The Southerner.

“It isn’t? How do you know?” The boy and his mother eyeballed me up and down. 

I opened my mouth, closed it and cleared my throat. “Because I’m a writer.” I said. “And my mother is a Children’s Librarian and we’ve read lots of books and have studied the authors and their backgrounds.


Then I offered up my favorite online resources for reviewing children’s books by or about American Indians. Lucky for me this mother was delighted with my bold offer. She whipped a pen and pad of paper from her purse, wrote down the website addresses I gave her, which are the same ones I will share with you here.


I read all the time. I can’t remember ever not reading. Listen to my mother and you will hear tales about me in diapers with a book in my lap. The only goal I had for my children was for them to love reading as much as I do. And I’ve achieved that success. All three were avid readers while growing up. As adults each time they move to a new city the first thing they do is get a library card. They buy books from their local bookstores, volunteer and teach, and contribute to literary.

Reading shapes and changes us. When Native Americans are in children's and young adult literature, it can be difficult to know if the characters in the books are appropriately portrayed from a Native perspective. Equally important is to know about the author so that we can decide if we want that person to influence our children’s lives.


Suggested Reading

American Indians In Children's Literature By Debbie Reese
Offering critical perspectives of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society.