Award-winning Cree author David A. Robertson, has welcomed a decision by Durham District School Board (DDSB), to return his children’s book, The Great Bear, to the school library shelves.
“I want to thank @DDSBSchools for making the right decision. I want to thank, as well, everybody who stood with me: libraries, educators, authors, parents, and so many more. There’s more work to be done, and I’m committed to working together in a good way<‘ said Robertson in a tweet yesterday.
He pointed out that The Great Bear is the #5 bestselling kids’ book this week at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.
Durham District School Board yesterday said: “We engaged in conversations with some local indigenous community members the past week. Feedback received focused on the importance of making books by indigenous authors available based on choice. The books will return to school libraries.”
Withdrawn on concern
A statement said the DDSB recognizes that there has been a request for more information concerning the review and temporary removal of The Great Bear and two other Forest of Reading books from its library collection. This followed concerns from indigenous families that were brought forward related to indigenous stereotypes and terminology that could perpetuate discrimination.
“An accelerated review process allowed us to engage in conversations with some members of the local indigenous community. Those discussions have placed the focus on the importance of making books by indigenous authors available to students, particularly indigenous students based on providing choice. In response to this feedback, we will be returning the books to library circulation.
More fulsome consultation
DDSB said it recognizes that the indigenous families who came forward did so with the intent to ensure DDSB met their children’s needs. “We also understand that for many families, the importance of accessing books that reflect indigenous lived realities is critically important. In the coming weeks, we will engage in a more fulsome consultation with treaty partners, the DDSB Indigenous Advisory Circle, indigenous staff and indigenous families on how to best manage different responses to literature and ensure that we serve the needs of indigenous families.”
Ready to meet authors
DDSB said it values indigenous literature and has introduced a compulsory indigenous course so that all graduates of the DDSB leave with a better understanding of indigenous lives and experiences.
“We deeply respect the work of David A. Robertson, along with those who decide to become authors to inspire children and youth. We have offered to meet with the authors to engage in further discussion. As we move forward, we are committed to engaging the plurality of indigenous voices within the district,” the DDSB statement added.