BOOKS

cover of I Am Not a Number
I Am Not a Number
Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland Second Story Press, 2016 32 pages, $18.95
*****
Reviewed by Monique Pregent

The residential school system was created in the late 1800s by the federal government to, according to Sir John A. McDonald, “kill the Indian, but save the man.” It is a part of Canadian history that was not openly shared, but it was a part of history that affected First Nations, Métis and Inuit children. The effect of residential schools continued long after the last one closed in 1996. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed a lengthy investigation into what took place in residential schools. The Commission made recommendations including using education to help with reconciliation.

I Am Not A Number is a true account of one residential school survivor’s year-long experience at one of these institutions. Irene Couchie, one of the author’s grandmothers, attended the Spanish Residential School in 1928. She speaks of the horrors that took place, from being starved, to having her arms burned as punishment for speaking her native tongue.

This book could be used as a mentor text for a variety of themes such as perseverance, courage or looking for main ideas in the junior and intermediate classroom. The book’s historical themes can be used to lead into discussions about Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Geographic inquiries can take shape about northern Ontario where Couchie was in school. Mapping out where residential schools were built can be used in social studies or geography. Finding statistics about residential schools can be used for a data management math inquiry. Studying the effects of poor nutrition that led to the infectious diseases that killed many residential school students can be a science inquiry. Endless cross-curricular connections can be made using this story.

But the most powerful aspect of this book is that it will open a dialogue, one that Justice Murray Sinclair spoke of as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a dialogue that needs to take place for reconciliation to happen. The truth must come out about what happened to our First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and their families. Using a storytelling platform as a springboard to these discussions is an effective way to start these conversations.

Monique Pregent is a member of the Avon Maitland Teacher Local.

MORE BOOKS

Book cover of Oral Language at Your Fingertips
Ontario Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, 2016 (To order visit osla.on.ca) 141 pages, $40.00.
Book cover for Migrant
Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault Groundwood Books, 2016 30 pages, $18.95.
Book cover for Arctic Adventures
Raquel Rivera, illustrated by Jirina Marton House of Anansi Press, 2007 47 pages, $18.95.
Book cover for Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged
Jody Nyasha Warner, illustrated by Richard Rudnicki Groundwook Books, 2016 32 Pages, 18.95.
Book cover for Making a Global City
Robert C. Vipond. University of Toronto Press, 2017. 249 pages, $34.95
Book cover for Secret Path
Jeff Lemire, music by Gord Downie. Simon and Schuster Canada, 2016. 96 pages, $26.99
Book cover of Student Diversity, 3rd Edition
Faye Brownlie, Catherine Feniak and Leyton Schnellert. Pembroke Publishers, 2016. 160 pages, $24.95
Book cover for In a Cloud of Dust
Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Brian Deines. Pajama Press, 2016. 32 Pages, $19.95

Pages