Educator-Approved Thanksgiving Book Recommendations – Western New Mexico University

“The story of Thanksgiving wasn’t all about happy encounters and smiles everywhere,” says Dr. Alexandra Neves, Chair of Teacher Education Programs at WNMU College of Education. “Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating and being thankful this time or this year, but we can learn and expand our knowledge when we include indigenous perspectives.”

If you share the story of Thanksgiving with kids, Dr. Neves proposes to start with what children already know about the holiday. “Perhaps they have heard of the history and traditions before. We then give them a chance to see that there’s another side of the story that they may have heard,” she says. “It’s also important for children to understand that Native Americans have not disappeared.”

A great way to learn together is to read Native American picture books that talk about the vacation from the perspective of Native Americans rather than European colonists. “There are many books and guides that can help parents and teachers discuss these issues.”

To name just a few, Dr. Neves:

  • “Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving” by Joseph Bruchac
  • “The Circle of Thanksgiving: Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Native Americans” by Joseph Bruchac
  • Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition (We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today) by Russell M. Peters
  • “1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving” by Catherine O’Neill Grace
  • “We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” by Traci Sorell (Cherokee)

professor dr Margarita P. Wulftange of the WNMU College of Education encourages families to read as well “Encounter” by Jane Yolen with children.

“Yolen is an excellent writer who writes about some complex subjects aimed at children and young adults,” she says. “I have used this book primarily with kindergarten and first, fourth and fifth graders, but also with high school students.”

As a childish perspective on Columbus’ arrival on the island of San Salvador in 1492 and a warning of the events that followed, Encounter lends itself well to a comparative analysis of the messages conveyed by children’s books about indigenous peoples, Thanksgiving, and the arrival of the Americas and Europeans the interactions of indigenous peoples with other cultures.

“The book isn’t about Thanksgiving per se, but it does bring in other aspects of what happened in America around 1492 and later,” says Dr. coiled rod. “By analyzing different children’s books, students are able to use higher order and critical thinking to see how different people might have different perspectives on the same event.”