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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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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books on Government

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Teachers know the best way to engage students is to ask why. Why should kids care about government? This list is aimed at the Grade 5 Social Studies unit.

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics, by Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin, is written in a way that hooks kids with a logical argument, beginning with the reader being told s/he is already a politician. How and why government is formed, how we decide things and how we get along are all addressed, which leads a discussion of how Canada’s party system works. Each chapter clarifies a single concept, including case studies; this one makes for a great read aloud.

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The following books are appropriate for independent research. 

Canadian Government, by Elizabeth MacLeod, is a book perfectly designed for the Grade 5 student, written in five simple chapters (Federal, Provincial, Municipal levels, as well as the Governor General’s role and Voting). It’s broken down into cl …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Canadian Heritage and Identity

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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These books support the Grade 6 Social Studies topic of Heritage and Canadian identity. They spotlight communities in Canada, past and present, and the contributions of various ethnic and religious groups to Canadian identity. Interwoven are the concepts of cause/consequence and continuity/change.

Great Lakes and Rugged Ground: Imagining Ontario, by Sarah N. Harvey and Leslie Buffam, illustrated by Kasia Charro, is a must-have. It depicts a changing landscape, in 14 panoramic scenes and 14 playful haikus, encapsulating heritage moments in Ontario. Beginning with the Haudenosaunee in the mid-1500s, this non-fiction picture book shows Europeans meeting First Nations, the Loyalists’ arrival, Laura Secord, the War of 1812, and the influx of Irish workers on the canal system, and in lumber mills. Other topics include the railway, the mining industry, the Group of Seven, women’s role during WWII, and the formation of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There’s also a scavenger hunt at the back for readers to find details in the illustrations.

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