As a Navajo woman and mom, it’s important for me to teach my daughter about her Native cultural heritage. This can be difficult at times, especially living away from the Navajo reservation. This article is about the best Navajo culture books for children.
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I grew up on the Navajo reservation, as did my parents, and the generations before them. Growing up, I felt immersed in Navajo culture, the people, and reservation life. I mean, I didn’t really know anything else.
As kids, we would read books about the mythical origins of our Dine’ People. I remember my fascination with the different stories.
As a Navajo parent, I have an enormous task of teaching my daughter about who she is and where she comes from. Her life as a toddler in a larger city is already very different than my childhood on the reservation.
It’s important for me to instill that cultural knowledge early on so she grows up with a sense of cultural identity and knows what it’s like to be part of a tribal nation.
This list of Navajo culture books for children is for everyone. Honestly, I enjoy children’s books sometimes. The inspiration behind this post came from a book we received at my daughter’s first laugh party.
Navajo culture books for children
My toddler is 21 months old right now, so some of these books are board books for infants and toddlers.
These books teach children about Navajo and Native American culture. Some aspects of Native culture, such as frybread and cradleboards, span many tribes.
Most of these books can be purchased directly from Amazon (click images). Also, check out Salina Bookshelf, Inc., where many other Navajo culture books for children and adults can be purchased directly.
- Related reading: How to increase your toddler’s vocabulary
1. Baby’s First Laugh
My daughter received this infant board book as a gift. It is a bilingual Navajo and English book that teaches basic familial relationships and hones in on the importance of a Navajo baby’s first laugh.
My toddler absolutely loves this book. The storyline is figuring out who makes baby laugh.
2. Cradle Me
This board book highlights the tradition of using cradleboards to carry and protect Native babies. My daughter loves learning about the facial expressions of the babies in their cradleboards.
As a parent, it’s fascinating to see the different looks and designs of cradleboards from other tribal nations.
3. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
As a child, frybread and Navajo tacos were my absolute favorite foods. I still have a special love and affinity for frybread today.
This is an award-winning children’s book by a Seminole Nation author. It highlights family, tradition, community, and values.
4. Navajo Coyote Tales
When I was growing up and even today, the symbolism of the coyote within the Navajo culture is legendary. Many stories passed down through the generations include tales of the trickster coyote.
The stories in this book were collected by a Navajo man, William Morgan, and translated into English.
5. Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code
My great-grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker. As a child, he was my beloved grandfather and that’s all I knew. I didn’t understand the importance and incredible bravery of his actions until I was much older.
This piece of history is incredible and a source of pride for the Navajo Nation. I can’t wait to teach my daughter about her people’s Code Talkers.
6. Beauty Beside Me
Thinking about the symbolism of my grandmother’s skirts brings tears to my eyes. My grandmother wore the traditional Navajo clothes style her entire life. She was an absolutely incredible woman who valued gratitude, culture, and generosity.
This story highlights the magic and teachings between a Navajo grandmother and her granddaughter.
7. First Laugh, Welcome Baby!
I included another First Laugh book on this list to highlight the importance of the first laugh in a Navajo baby’s life. This book also includes baby celebrations from other cultures.
The author of this book is a Navajo woman and educator.
8. How the Stars Fell Into the Sky: A Navajo Legend
Navajo creation stories are very important in the teachings of young Navajo children. This book is about First Woman and the trickster Coyote.
9. The Goat in the Rug
This story draws upon the friendship between a weaver and a goat. One day, the weaver decides to weave the goat into a beautiful Navajo rug.
This book teaches children about Navajo weaving and the importance of friendship.
10. Navajo Life: A Bilingual Children’s Picture Book
This book tells the story of a Navajo girl named Bah and her brother Kee. It is a bilingual Navajo and English book for children. The illustrations are by Navajo artist Andrew Tsihnijinnie.
The history of this book is quite interesting, as it was first published during Congress’s assimilation period, also known as the Indian termination policy, between the 1940s and the 1960s.
Apparently, it was first published to teach English literacy to adult Natives. After the assimilation period ended, the illustrations were made into color and it was dedicated to all children.
11. Baby Learns About Time
Baby Learns About Time is a bilingual Navajo and English book that teaches children about the concept of time. Follow a Navajo baby on her birthday and learn about the fun activities planned throughout the day.
12. Dine Bizaad: A Navajo Alphabet Book for Kids
Although the Navajo language is written in the Latin script like English, the Navajo alphabet is different than the English alphabet.
This book takes children through the Navajo alphabet. Each letter is accompanied by an illustration along with a Navajo and English translation.
Final thoughts: Navajo culture books for children
This list has me thinking about the value of culture, history, and education for all children. I consider myself lucky that I was able to grow up within a rich, unique culture.
It is important for me to pass down this knowledge and culture to my daughter so she has a sense of her own personal history. I tend to believe that individuals carry the history of all the generations that come before them, so we have to understand in order to be whole.
I hope you enjoyed this list of Navajo culture books for children. Have your children read any of these? Let me know what you think.