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

Cover of School Days Around the World by Margriet Ruurs and Alice Feagan
Margriet Ruurs and Alice Feagan. Kids Can Press, 2015 40 pages, $19.95
Cover of Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanaine, illustrated by Claudia Davila
Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanaine, illustrated by Claudia Davila. Kids Can Press, 2015 48 pages, $18.95
Cover of Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth. Triangle Square, 2015 160 pages, $17.29
Cover of The Art of Possible
Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin. Owlkids Books, 201563 pages, $17.95
Cover of Classroom Routines for Real Learning
Jennifer Harper and Kathryn O’Brien. Pembroke Publishers, 2015128 pages, $24.95
Cover of I Can Dance My Feelings
Hannah Beach. Tournesol Dance, $139.95 (set of six), $24.95 (individual book)
Cover of book A Brush Full of Colour
Katherine Gibson and Margriet RuursPajama Press, 201440 pages, $22.95
Book Cover of Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussion
Elham Kazemi and Allison Hint. Stenhouse Publishers, 2014, 168 pages, $25.95

Pages