Indigenous Board Books for Toddlers

Throughout my life I enjoyed reading. As a child, it transported me away to more exciting places and it some-what satiated my thirst for knowledge. Now, as a mother, I love introducing my 1 year old to new books, hoping to spark the same love of reading that I have had for as long as I can remember.

I think it is so important to introduce books to children as young as my daughter (I started reading to her when she was six months old) as it increases their language development and pre-literacy skills. I think it played a key role in the comprehension she has now of language, and her competency in sign language now at 14 months old.

I blogged about this previously, but there is a lack of representation in mainstream media for Indigenous peoples, therefore it is important to me to find books for my daughter that she can relate to as an Indigenous/Nehiyaw Iskwesis.

With the help of Social Media (and my own resourcefulness using search engines), I was able to find the following three board books that I would highly recommend you add to your own bookshelf for yourself and your toddler:

  1. Little You by Richard Van Camp (Orca Book Publishers)

This book was gifted to us when my daughter was a newborn. The gorgeous illustrations by Julie Flett won us over as much as the sweet writing by Richard did. It is a poem dedicated to the sweet baby that encompasses the love we all have for our children, as this child in the book grows into toddlerhood. Very relatable to read to my own baby who is now a toddler. The best part is, the father in the book looks exactly like my husband, so my daughter loves to give him kisses when we get to the illustrations of him. A sweet memory I will always cherish.

The author, Richard Van Camp, is a Tłı̨chǫ writer from the Northwest Territories.

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2. My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith (Orca Book Publishers)

I recently bought this book as it was suggested to me because Julie Flett is also illustrated it. I am so glad I got it! I gasped at some of the imagery because it’s just so surreal to see aspects from my culture in print. Beautiful imagery and words including bannock, drumming, singing, ribbons skirts, etc, all centered around love, happiness, and familial ties, which are central to my own personal family values, as well as cultural aspects.

The author, Monique Gray Smith, is of Cree, Lakota and Scottish descent.

3. Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kulluk (Inhabit Media)

I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover (illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis) of a little black haired baby (which reminded me of myself as a baby) surrounded by animals. Of course, the book itself didn’t disappoint. It’s the poem of the different gifts given to a baby by the animals of the Arctic. A wonderful learning opportunity to introduce my own baby both to the lyrical rhythms/sounds of the poem, and also to the different Northern animals.

This is the first book by acclaimed Inuit throat singer, Celina Kalluk.

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