National Day for Truth & Reconciliation is on September 30, 2022. It is a day that many Indigenous communities and activists advocated for in Canada. Please use the information and resources below to honor this day with your students and children worldwide. The picture books listed below are all written by Indigenous authors and/or Indigenous illustrators to ensure we are listening to Indigenous voices, especially while recognizing the tragedies of Residential and Boarding Schools in the US and Canada.

  1. What is the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation?
  2. What Can We Do for Truth & Reconciliation?
  3. Picture Books About Residential & Boarding Schools
  4. Picture Books About Reconciliation

What is the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation?

In Canada, September 30th is the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation. This day honors the children who never returned home from residential schools, the survivors, as well as their families and communities. It is a time to teach the true history and engage in reconciliation for these tragedies.

September 30th is also Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led movement to recognize the impacts of residential schools on individuals, families, and communities across generations.

What Can We Do for Truth & Reconciliation?

Based on listening to Indigenous Communities’ work & advocacy, Colorful Pages commits to and encourages you to join us in:

  • Learning more at the:
  • Teaching & reflecting on the history using the diverse books listed below
  • Wearing an Orange Shirt on 9/30
  • Continuing this work throughout the year

Picture Books About Residential & Boarding Schools

Stolen Words, by Melanie Florence & illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-9 years

The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

When I Was Eight, by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton & illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-9 years

Bestselling memoir Fatty Legs for younger readers. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

When We Were Alone, by David A. Robertson & illustrated by Julie Flett

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-8 years

A young girl notices things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak Cree and spend so much time with her family? As she asks questions, her grandmother shares her experiences in a residential school, when all of these things were taken away.

Also available in a bilingual Swampy Cree/English edition.

I Am Not a Number, by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer & illustrated by Gillian Newland

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 7-11 years

When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene’s parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law? Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, I Am Not a Number is a hugely necessary book that brings a terrible part of Canada’s history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to.

Picture Books About Reconciliation

With Our Orange Hearts, by Phyllis Webstad & illustrated by Emily Kewageshig

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 2-5 years

Listening is a first step towards reconciliation. It’s never too early to start.

“Every child matters, including you and me. With our orange hearts, we walk in harmony.”

As a young child, your little world can be full of big feelings. In this book, Phyllis Webstad, founder of Orange Shirt Day, shows how sharing her story with the world helped her to process her feelings. Her true story encourages young children to open their hearts when others share their feelings and be more comfortable sharing their own feelings, too.

You Hold Me Up, by Monique Gray Smith & illustrated by Danielle Daniel

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Exploration & Conversation

Age Range: 3-5 years

Consultant, international speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote You Hold Me Up to prompt a dialogue among young people, their care providers and educators about reconciliation and the importance of the connections children make with others. With vibrant illustrations from celebrated artist Danielle Daniel, this is a foundational book about building relationships, fostering empathy and encouraging respect between peers, starting with our littlest citizens.

Orca Book Publishers is proud to offer this picture book as a dual-language (English and Anishinaabemowin) edition.

The People Shall Continue, by Simon J. Ortiz & illustrated by Sharol Graves

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 5-10 years

Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America recounts their story from Creation to the invasion and usurpation of Native lands. As more and more people arrived, The People saw that the new men did not respect the land. The People witnessed the destruction of their Nations and the enslavement of their people. The People fought hard, but eventually agreed to stop fighting and signed treaties.

Many things changed and became more difficult, but The People continued to farm and create crafts. They remembered and told their children, You are Shawnee. You are Lakota. You are Pima. You are Acoma… You are all these Nations of the People. The People held onto their beliefs and customs and found solidarity with other oppressed people. And despite struggles against greed, destruction of their lands, and oppression, The People persisted.

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