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PreK–12 Books to Read During Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American History Month, a time to honor and celebrate the lives, cultures, and contributions of Indigenous people. For teachers, this makes November the perfect time to highlight diverse Native American voices in the classroom, and what better way to share these perspectives than through literature?

To ensure authentic and nuanced representations, many educators choose to highlight books written by Native American authors. As such, we’ve compiled a list of PreK–12 books written exclusively by and about Indigenous people. Recommended titles come from a variety of sources, including Dr. Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, the American Indian Library Association, and Social Justice Books. Read on to discover contemporary Indigenous stories that your students will love.

Picture Books

Written in response to Indigenous-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests, We Are Water Protectors urges young readers to protect the Earth and its most precious resource. The narrator, a young Ojibwe girl, warns of a black snake threatening to poison the world’s water. Her voice infuses Native storytelling with current events, culminating in a rallying cry for environmental justice.

Fry bread is more than food — it’s a symbol of family, tradition, and Native American culture. Kevin Noble Maillard’s rhyming verse reflects on the importance of fry bread in innovative, heartwarming ways. Featuring over 500 North American tribes, the story explores how the ingredients and methods of preparing this cultural cuisine are just as diverse as the communities they come from. The author’s own recipe, provided at the back of the book, is one of many versions of fry bread that students can experience and enjoy.

Experience a year of Cherokee traditions in this dual-language picture book. Although the seasons and celebrations change, the spirit of otsaliheliga (gratitude) persists throughout, allowing young readers to reflect on both the pain and joy of the Cherokee Nation. Colorful artwork complements rich Cherokee culture and history, fully immersing young readers in both the story and illustrations.

Middle Grade

In this collection of interconnected short stories, Native families across the U.S. and Canada gather at a Dance for Mother Earth powwow. Each tale celebrates the strength and resilience of Native American identity, showing students how Native traditions have survived and transformed. Brought together as a whole, Ancestor Approved offers a deep yet easy-to-digest exploration of Native heritage that both Native and non-Native students can enjoy.

While visiting his grandmother for the summer, Nathan encounters something extraordinary — a Water Monster from the Navajo Creation Story in desperate need of help. Banding together with Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan sets out to heal the Water Monster as well as the rifts within his own family. Students will love the blend of mythos and modernity in this novel, culminating in a strong, affirming representation of modern Native Americans.

After a devastating injury that leaves her unable to dance, the last thing Maisie wants to do is take a family road trip. Nevertheless, she finds herself on the coast heading towards the Makah community where her mother grew up. With the help of her family and Native community, Maisie begins the long journey towards hope, healing, and finding her joy again. Deeply moving and emotional, The Sea in Winter is well-suited to any young reader feeling hopeless or lost.

Young Adult

Note that young adult novels may contain mature themes.

Biracial, tribally unenrolled, and the product of a scandal, Daunis Fontaine has always lived among the margins of her hometown and Ojibwe community. However, when the town is rocked by a shocking murder, Daunis is thrust into the investigation. Using her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine, Daunis must hunt down the source of the mounting deaths before it’s too late. Twisty and immersive, Firekeeper’s Daughter is a thrilling exploration of community bonds and corruption. Students will be rooting for Daunis to solve the mystery and grow into a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Obijwe woman).

A memoir-in-verse, Apple: Skin to Core recounts Eric Gansworth’s experiences growing up Onondaga and living amongst the Tuscaroras. In vivid prose, he interrogates the traumatic history of government boarding schools, virulent racism, and the term “Apple” — a slur meaning “red on the outside and white on the inside” — ultimately reclaiming the word as his own. By following Gansworth’s story from youth into adulthood, teen readers gain a deep, searingly honest perspective on Native American life while coming of age themselves.

Told from two alternating perspectives, A Snake Falls to Earth is a speculative fiction story of magic, monsters, and worlds colliding. Nina is a Lipan girl living on Earth, piecing together her heritage from her great-great-grandmother. Oli is a cottonmouth kid from the land of spirits and monsters, where animals thrive in their true forms. Catastrophic events bring the pair together and threaten to tear their worlds apart. Fresh and futuristic, this story exposes readers to the rich tradition of Lipan Apache storytelling and culture.

We hope these books prompt fruitful classroom discussions and help center Native American history, culture, and people well past the month of November. Happy reading!

For other classroom activities celebrating Native American Heritage Month, check out:

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