For some time now, I have been collecting books written by own voice authors, particularly those books written by Indigenous people. My collection is growing and these books play a vital role in all aspects of my curriculum and in the classroom community. The students are beginning to recognize works by specific authors by examining both the voice used in a text and the illustrations. It has been, and continues to be one of the greatest reading journeys I have ever experienced with students.
One of our favorite authors is Traci Sorell. At The Mountain’s Base, Sorell’s newest picture book, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre, has become one of the most popular books in our collection. Sorrel’s author’s notes states, “Although this is a poem about a fictional Cherokee family, Native Women have served and continue to serve in wars while receiving strong support from their families.” The note goes on to talk about, “Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroast, an OgLaLa Lakota pilot,” and all of her accomplishments as a female airforce service pilot in World War Two. The students loved the poem, the author’s note and the illustrations. The importance of family and community is woven throughout the poem and is a theme that the students recognize immediately.
What Students had to say:
- I like that this book is about Women’s Rights
- I loved the illustrations
- I want to talk to the illustrator and ask questions about some of the pictures
- There is so much to look at in the illustrations
- She was brave
- I like that it was all females
- The whole family is worried for her and praying for her
- This poem is inspiring
We will continue to build our collection of books by Indigenous authors. We will look for books that reflect the many varied sovereign nations and the experiences and contributions of their members to the world. We will continue to seek out books that are beautifully illustrated and that cause us to engage in talk worthy discussions about theme, family and life. Cultivating this collection has become a passion and a highlight of my reading life with my students. As Sorell says in her book, We Are Grateful, “Otsaliheliga.” I am grateful for all of the possibilities for students to read books written and illustrated by Indigenous people. What a wonderful life!