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Great Reads for Native American Heritage Month 2023

1st day of Native American Heritage Month & National Author's Day

10 Native American Children’s Books (

We’ve rounded up 10 of the best Native American children’s books to share with elementary students. Whether you need a picture book for a read-aloud or a chapter book for older students to discuss, these books all center Native American characters and communities.

What does fry bread mean to Native American families? Fry bread is food, time, nation, history, and so much more. This book in verse follows a family as they make a meal that brings them together—along with a recipe in the back for sharing.

If you’re looking for a nonfiction read-aloud, consider this picture book about a famous 19th-century woman named Buffalo Bird Woman. Not only does it introduce students to her early life and accomplishments, but it also teaches what life was like for the Hidatsa Indian tribe in the 1800s.

Plus, use this free class activity sheet for Buffalo Bird Girl to lead a guided discussion with your student.

3. Lizard and the Painted Rock by Elizabeth Lane (also available in Spanish as Lagartija y la Roca Pintada, translated by Daisy Bratcher)

Lizard does not feel important like Turtle and Rabbit, both of whom the Artist painted on the wall. But when Lizard decides to paint himself on the wall, he learns an important lesson about belonging and creativity.

4. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Inspired by environmental movements led by Indigenous North Americans, this picture book encourages children to take care of the world they live in. When an evil snake tries to poison the water, it’s up to one child to save the planet.

Compiled by author Traci Sorrell, this picture book showcases 12 presentations on Native American history, culture, and challenges by Indigenous students. Learn about topics like Native civil rights, language revival movements, and forced assimilation in a writing style that’s accessible for younger students.

6. First Laugh—Welcome, Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood

A Navajo (or Diné) First Laugh Ceremony celebrates a child’s first laugh, welcoming them to the family and community when they are a few months old. Experience this beautiful ceremony through the eyes of a new family as they try to make Baby laugh for the first time.

7. At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorel

This beautifully-illustrated picture book shares a story about a Cherokee family who misses a loved one serving in the military. What makes this story special is that it’s based on the lives of the many Cherokee women who served as pilots during World War II.

8. I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

When Edie’s mother was a baby, she was adopted by a white couple. Although Edie knows she is Native American, she has never had a chance to explore her heritage. But when she uncovers a box of photographs with a woman who bears a striking resemblance to her, she embarks on a journey to uncover who this woman is and how she is connected to Edie.

To get the most out of your discussion, be sure to use this free classroom activity sheet for I Can Make This Promise.

9. Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

Malian is excited to visit her grandparents and their home on a Wabanaki reservation, but when the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down travel, she is unable to return home. Together with the help of a new furry friend, she and her parents navigate their uncertainties together. This novel is told in verse, inspired by the author’s Native American heritage.

10. They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths by Jean Guard Monroe and Ray A. Williamson

Each chapter in this book recounts the stories behind different constellations within Native American folklore. These star myths present a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about Native American folklore as well as the stars in the night sky.

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