Great Lakes and Ojibwe Culture Book Group for Young People
Less than 1% of children’s books feature Native American or Indigenous characters, according to a 2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center study.
Wisconsin Water Librarian Anne Moser — partnering with Hannah Arbuckle and Jenny Van Sickle of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIWFC) and intern Morgan Coleman — created a book group for teachers, parents and librarians who want to seek out these books and share them with young readers.
The club is called Maadagindan! (Start Reading!) Literature for Young People About the Great Lakes and Ojibwe Culture; it meets monthly online and is open to anyone who wants to join.
The group has had four monthly book discussions, and the number of attendees has been growing steadily. The books discussed include “Growing Up Ojibwe,” written cooperatively by GLIFWC staff members; “The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering,” by Gordon Regguinti; “The Birchbark House,” by Louise Erdrich; and “The Water Walker,” by Joanne Robertson. Each month’s discussion included an Ojibwe guest who shared wisdom and stories based on the theme of the book. Past guests include Hannah Arbuckle, Kathleen Smith, Michael Waasegiizhig Price and Joanne Robertson.
Wisconsin Water Library summer 2022 intern Maya Reinfeldt is planning a fall season of the book club. She hopes to build upon the work done by Moser and Coleman by locating and bringing awareness to additional children’s books by Anishinaabe authors, focusing on relevant themes such as water protection, climate change, and the value and protection of Indigenous knowledge. Reinfeldt hopes that through the book club’s outreach, more classrooms will take steps to respectfully incorporate Indigenous voices, stories and teachings in the curriculum, teaching children who already love to read how to appreciate another invaluable perspective.
She said, “I hope the book club can provide not only a space for non-Indigenous people to learn from and about Anishinaabe authors, but also a safe and comfortable forum for Anishinaabe (and other Indigenous) people, be they guest speakers or attendees, to explore their own cultural backgrounds within the context of children’s literature.”
For information and discussion questions for the books the group has read or to sign up for the fall sessions, visit the website at go.wisc.edu/Maadagindan.