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Notes from a Children's Librarian: The Power of Oral Language

Stuttering, speech writing, the loss of indigenous language, and the power of speaking up — all aspects of oral language addressed in the books on this list.

Book Cover I Talk Like a River

I Talk Like a River is by Jordan Smith, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Beautiful painted images accompany this moving first person narrative of a boy who stutters. His teacher asks the class to make a speech and in order to cope he remembers what his father’s words: “See how that water moves? That’s how you speak.” To prevent himself from crying or avoiding speaking at all, he tells himself: “I also think of the calm river beyond the rapids…. Even the river stutters. Like I do.”

This book is filled with metaphors and similes, such as, “The P in pine tree grows roots inside my mouth and tangles my tongue.” And personification: “When the words around me are hard, I think of the proud river.” (Kindergarten to Grade 6)

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Book Cover Adventures of a Stuttering Superhero

Adventures of a Stuttering Superhero, by Kim Block, illustrated by Cheryl Cameron, is only available as an e-book. Kim Block has written 3 books in the life of Gra …

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Celebrating & Exploring Indigenous Languages Through Literature

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Indigenous languages are an important aspect of daily life in Canada. Many provinces, town and city names, landmarks, and bodies of water are identified by words in Indigenous languages. Cities such as Toronto (Tkaronto) or Ottawa (Odawa) are named using Indigenous languages. Meaning behind these words needs to be celebrated and explored in a respectful manner. Through literature and connecting with Indigenous communities, Indigenous languages can be supported and honoured in the classroom.

The year 2019 was designated the “International Year of indigenous languages (#IYIL2019)” by the United Nations in an effort to acknowledge and raise awareness of Indigenous languages worldwide. Indigenous languages “foster and promote unique local cultures, customs, and values which have endured for thousands of years.” In addition, “Indigenous languages add to the rich tapestry of global cultural diversity. Without them, the world would be a poorer place.”

According to the United Nations statement “Celebrating IYIL2019 will help promote and protect indigenous languages and improve the lives of those who speak them.“ It will also support the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Canada adopted the declaration in 2016.

In Canada, there are over 60 different Indige …

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