5 MUST READ Picture Books About Residential Schools

5 must read picture books about residential schools


If you teach in Canada, you need to be teaching about Residential Schools. This horribly sad and violent aspect of Canada's history is so important to teach. In order to move forwards and create a better tomorrow, we need our children, our future, to understand our past.

Here is a collection of the 5 BEST picture books about Residential Schools. I have organized them in order of complexity. If this is the first time that your students have been introduced to Residential Schools, I suggest starting with book 1. 

Some schools may choose to read one book about Residential Schools to students each year, so that they continue to be exposed to this concept. You could read book 1 in grade 1, book 2 in grade 2 and so on if that is something that you are interested in doing. 

1) Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell

This book is about a little girl who will be going to Residential School. The story takes place during the days before she leaves. It highlights the importance of nature to her Indigenous culture. It also introduces some Indigenous traditions. The story ends with Shi-shi-etko riding the cattle truck, on the way to school. You could easily use this book with students from grade 1 through junior high. I have included an awesome Read Aloud of this story below! This is done by Mayor Don Iveson of Edmonton Alberta. 

2) When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson

This is a story about a little girl and her grandmother. As the little girl notices things about her grandmother and asks her questions, she learns about the hardships that her grandmother faced while attending Residential School. This book and my activities are best suited for students in grades 2-6. 

3) Shin-chi's Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell

This is the sequel to Shi-shi-etko and follows Shi-shi and her little brother Shin-chi as they spend the year at Residential School. This story delves into the horrific hardships that children experienced at Residential School such as not being able to talk to their siblings or use their Indigenous language. This book and my activities are best suited for students in grades 3-6. 

4) When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margret Pokiak-Fenton

This book tells the story of Olemaun, a little Inuit girl who attended Residential School. Olemaun is very easy to relate to and students will be able to make connections with her sense of perseverance and strength. The story is at times a bit scary because Residential Schools were scary places. This book and my activities are best suited for students in grades 4 and up. 

5) I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer

This is the story of a young girl named Irene who is taken from her family and forced to attend Residential School. She suffers both physical and emotional abuse while at school. The "punishment" that she receives for speaking her Indigenous language is frightening which is why I recommend this book for grades 5 and up. 

Click here to check out the Indigenous Read Aloud Bundle in my TPT store which includes activities to compliment a variety of books about Residential Schools and Indigenous Culture. 

This blog post is about 5 must read picture books to learn more about Canada 's History. Indian Residential Schools picture books, perfect for orange shirt day. Students need to learn about Canadian Residential Schools and these picture books are an easy way to make that happen.











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