Tag Archives: Indigenous picture books

#BeBraveMakeChange in National Reconciliation Week 2022 – #readilearn

Today, Friday 27 May is the first day of National Reconciliation Week which runs until 3 June. The theme this year is ‘Be Brave. Make Change.’

As expressed on the Reconciliation Australia website, the theme ‘is a challenge to all Australians— individuals, families, communities, organisations and government—to Be Brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can Make Change for the benefit of all Australians.’

It ‘is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.’

The dates are chosen to commemorate two events:

On 27 May 1967, more than 90% of Australians voted ‘Yes’ in a referendum to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be recognised in the Census.

On 3 June 1992, the Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decision which recognised the incorrectness of the term ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no one). This decision led to the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and paved the way for recognition of Native Title.

The day before Reconciliation Week, 26 May, is National Sorry Day which remembers and honours the Stolen Generations.

The website lists actions we can all take to make a change toward reconciliation.

The basis of many of these actions is education. It begins with us, teaching our children to honour and respect the cultures of our First Nations, to learn the truth of our history, and to implement actions for change.

I rarely mention politics in my posts, but with our recent change in government, I was very proud to be an Australian when the incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged our First Nations peoples in both the introduction and content of his victory speech. These are the words with which he opened his speech:

“I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the heart in full.”

And these are the words which he used further in:

“And together we can embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“We can answer its patient, gracious call for a voice enshrined in our constitution. Because all of us ought to be proud that amongst our great multicultural society we count the oldest living continuous culture in the world.”

In further recognition, in his first press conference as Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese hung the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags alongside the Australian flag in the media room at Parliament House. These statements give me hope for the recognition that our First Nations deserve and is long overdue.

In this post, I share some wonderful books by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and illustrators. This is only a small selection of the growing number available. Magabala Books is a great resource to check out as it publishes only books by First Nations authors and illustrators. Other publishers also have a collection of titles, so it is worth checking out others too. I will be adding these titles to the list already available in readilearn resources Indigenous Australian picture books and resources. A previous post Resources for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture has links to many other useful resources also.

Books for Reconciliation

Common Wealth by Gregg Dreise

Published by Scholastic in 2021

Dreise is the author of many wonderful picture books. I first came upon his delightful stories in books such as Kookoo Kookaburra and Mad Magpie which introduce children to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Common Wealth is different. It is a book that challenges us to acknowledge our true history and to ‘break down the barriers of division … by discussing without ammunition, a willingness to listen … to a true common wealth vision.’

The book may not be as suitable for sharing with our younger children, but it makes valuable reading for us anyway as it can empower us in our knowledge and discussions. The half-title page informs us that this book is ‘A Slam Poetry Persuasive — A picture book for older readers. Contains some confronting imagery.’

Dreise opens the book with the words, ‘All that I’m wishing, is that you take a moment to listen …You see, I’m on a mission, to spread unity — not division.’ He takes us on a journey through our national anthem and our history, pointing out the parts that are incorrect and what we need to do to make them more inclusive and true. His illustrations pull no punches and the text added to the illustrations add to the depth of the story and its message. There is much to contemplate and discuss. It may be challenging but it is also empowering and I, for one, can’t help myself wishing for change along with Gregg.

Finding Our Heart by Thomas Mayor, illustrated by Blak Douglas

Published by Hardie Grant 2020

Thomas Mayor was involved in the writing of the Uluru Statement of the Heart. His book for adults titled Finding the Heart of the Nation: The Journey of the Uluru Statement Towards Voice, Treaty and Truth talks about the writing of the statement and reports discussions with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whom Mayor met with as he took the Statement on a journey around Australia. It is a very valuable read for adults.

Continue reading: #BeBraveMakeChange in National Reconciliation Week 2022 – readilearn

Ten More Picture Books to Finish the Year – #readilearn

Last week I provided you with a list of picture books I had reviewed or whose authors and illustrators I had interviewed throughout the year. Of course, I read many more than that. It would be impossible to review all the books I read. However, in this post, I share just ten other picture books I have read and enjoyed this year, not all of which were published this year.  I hope you find at least one that appeals to you or your young people. (Note: where I was able to source a video, I have included one.)

The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name

by Sandhya Parappukkaran and Michelle Pereira (a Bright Light book published by Hardie Grant, 2021)

The blurb states that ‘No-one should ever have to shrink themselves down to fit in.’ I think we would all agree with that.

However, when Zimdalamashkermishkada starts school, he knows he will have to do something about his name. He is asked to spell it and repeat it before a friend shortens it to Zim. When he asks his mother if he can shorten Zimdalamashkermishkada to Zim, she explains the reasons for giving him his name and suggests he gives people a chance to learn it. Which is just what he does. He stretches his name out bit by bit to teach his new friend Ella who shares pride in his name and teaches others to use it correctly too.

I love the theme of this book and its message about recognising and accepting others. How many times do we have children in our classes with names that we at first find difficult to pronounce? How tempting is it to simply shorten them because it is easy? How much more important is it for us to acknowledge and learn their given names showing respect for them and their culture and modelling that respect for the children in our class as well as our colleagues. Shortening names may be easy, but it can be hurtful too. This book is a great reminder of that and of appreciating our differences and what it means to be unique.

(Note; while there is a reading of this book on YouTube, I haven’t shared it here as I was disappointed that the reader didn’t even pronounce the author’s name correctly. Sorry, Sandhya.)

Usha and the Big Digger

by Amitha Jagannath Knight and Sandhya Prabhat (a story telling Math book published by Charlesbridge, 2021)

This is another wonderful book that I received as a gift from the author, simply for leaving a comment on an interview with Kaitlyn Sanchez on her blog Math is Everywhere.

In my comment, before reading the book, I simply said, ‘This book sounds amazing. I love that the constellation is viewed from different perspectives. What a great introduction to perspective for children – both the maths, and the ideas/points of view. The cover is appealing with the gorgeous night-sky colours. Yes, I’d love to read this one and have added it to my Good Reads Want to Read list. Here in Australia, we have different ways of looking at the constellations too. While we see the images drawn by connecting the dots (stars), our Indigenous Peoples see the shapes in the dark. It’s quite fascinating.’

And for that I received a free book from Amitha. That’s amazing. And the book doesn’t disappoint either. The deep colours that Sandhya Prabhat has used to illustrate the dark of the night and the sky with its stars are just beautiful and add so much depth of the discussions and the themes.

In the story, three girls observe the constellation that I know as the Big Dipper or the saucepan. The older sister also refers to it as the Big Dipper or a big spoon. The younger sister Usha, who loves trucks, sees it as a big digger. Unable to agree, they call on their cousin. But Gloria sees neither a dipper nor a digger. She sees a kite. When they try to see the stars from the others’ perspective, they come to a whole new understanding.

I love the way this book deals with looking at things from different perspectives and coming to an understanding. I also like that it includes information about the constellation, including that it isn’t really a constellation, it’s an asterism, and how it is seen by different cultures around the world. In addition, it includes suggestions for exploring maths related to the story. I wasn’t previously aware that there was a publisher of STEM related books such as Storytelling Math. I’ll be looking for more of their titles as I think picture books are a great way to encourage a love of maths as well as reading. That’s definitely a win-win.

You can listen to Amitha talk about her book here.

Continue reading: Ten More Picture Books to Finish the Year – readilearn