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Residential Schools Picture Books for Grades 2-5

Picture Books to Teach About REsidential Schools

Teaching students about the history of Canadian Residential Schools is necessary but can lead to some very heavy conversations. I have found the best way to do this is through the use of picture books.

14 Picture Books

It can be difficult to know which books are appropriate for children so I have compiled a list of 14 picture books I feel are appropriate for elementary school students.

The list below is in order from younger audience to older audience. This is just my opinion and you may think differently. That is ok! Even though the first few books talk about younger students and have simpler language they provide rich class discussions for students in Grades 2-5.


Also included here is a set of FREE printable activities to do with any of the picture books mentioned below. Keep reading to get the printables.

REsidential Schools Picture Book List

I have used all of these in my classroom as part of lessons on Residential schools and Orange Shirts day. They are also kept in my picture book bins all year long so that students have access to them for more than just Orange Shirt Day. The ones with the * beside them are my favourites to use. If you are looking to start your own collection, I would start with these ones first.

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson & Julie Flett
*Tyson’s New Orange Shirt by Bianca Bell & Lynda Dobbin-Turner

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

*Phyllis’s Orange Shirt by Phyllis Webstad
*When I was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton


Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
*Kookums Red Shoes by Peter Eyvindson


Shi-shi-etko by Nicole I. Campbell
Shin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell
“Mush-hole” Memories of a Residential School by Maddie Harper (has the word “ass” in it one time)
*I am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis & Kathy Kacer
*Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Affiliate LInks

Please note that the links above are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase one of the books, I get a few cents. It does not change the price you pay for the books. If you prefer not to use the affiliate link you can search for the books on your own.

 Free Activities for Grades 2-5

After reading one of the books listed above, I like to engage my students in an activity to help them reflect on their learning.

As noted above, I have created some free printable activities for you to use with your students.

I have used these activities with my students and I am always impressed with their deep thinking and reflecting skills.


All of these pages are in one file. To get your copy, click the image below.



If you are looking for more Indigenous activities check out this Indigenous Art Oil Pastel Project.

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