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August 10, 2011

Storybook readings at the Heye Center in New York (one consolation for the end of summer)

“Back to school,” those dreaded words most students don’t want to hear during their summer vacation! The staff of the Resource Center at the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York eagerly looks forward to the return of students and the chance to assist them with their assignments and educate them about indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere through our comprehensive book collection. We also encourage educators to come in so they can speak to knowledgeable staff and take a look at resources that will surely enhance their teaching about Native Americans in the classroom.

Carrie Gonzalez 
Carrie Gonzales leading a storybook reading at the Heye Center. Photo by Gaetana DeGennaro (Tohono O’odham), GGHC.

A fun way to learn about Native People is through our storybook reading and hands-on activity program. This family program invites visitors to listen to stories about different Native cultures living throughout the Western Hemisphere. Each story is followed by a culturally related hands-on activity. Storybooks document oral stories that have been handed down by storytellers through generations. Contemporary stories, such as “real children” stories, tell about Native young people in their communities today. Stories are a valuable way of learning about who we are and where we come from. Some stories are humorous, others are scary; there are stories about tricksters and stories about heroes; some are about the environment while others are about astronomy—whatever the story, each has much to teach, as well as providing good old-fashioned entertainment.

Ledger art activity
Children decorating drawings of horsemen's exploits on canvas after listening to a related storybook. Photo by Mary Ahenakew (Cherokee/Piscataway).

The program From the Shelves of the Resource Center: Storybook Reading and Hands-on Activity takes place the second Saturday of each month at 1 pm at the Heye Center in lower Manhattan. For those of you visiting the museum in Washington, D.C., the new imagiNATIONS Activity Center will be hosting it own storybook reading programs beginning in the fall.

Here are a few storybooks recommended by the Resource Center staff, if you'd like to do storybook readings with your family, in school, or on your own: 

The NMAI series My World: Young Native Americans Today shows how real Native children's lives are like other children's lives, and how, in the observance of ceremonies and other cultural traditions, they may be different. The fourth book in the series, Meet Christopher: An Osage Boy from Oklahoma by Genevieve Simermeyer, was a recipient of the 2010 American Indian Youth Literature Award.

The NMAI series Tales of the People includes four children’s books celebrating Native American culture with illustrations and stories by Indian artists and writers.

Children of Native America Today by Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, and the Global Fund for Children. Charlesbridge , 2003.

Grandma Calls Me Beautiful by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. Chronicle Books, 2008.

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King, pictures by Gary Clement. Groundwood Books, 2009.

La Música De Las Montañas: Cuento basando en un relato aymara by Marcela Recabarren, illustrated by Bernardita Ojeda. Editorial Amanuta, Colección Pueblos Originarios. Chile, 2005.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu. HarperCollins, 2000.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. Lee & Low Books, 1997.

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Cinco Puntos Press, 2008.

A Man Called Raven by Richard Van Camp, pictures by George Littlechild. Children’s Book Press, 1997.

Please feel free to share your favorite books for young people on Native American life and culture in the comments.

—Gaetana DeGennaro (Tohono O’odham), Resource Center staff, George Gustav Heye Center 



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It is important to learn about the native american heritage. Thanks for sharing.

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