Rewriting History: American Indians, Europeans, and an Oak Tree (Loudness in the Library Year Three, Part 3)

Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature

I did a double-take when I cracked open As An Oak Tree Grows*, a 2014 book that inaccurately reflects the history of European and Native American interactions.  In the story, which traces the life of an oak tree (planted as an acorn by a young Native boy), the Native character simply disappears as the Europeans move in.  Bank Street students, who participate in extensive curricula on unlearning Native stereotypes, immediately recognized this as problematic, because it erases the conflicts and violence that arose when Native people fought to defend their homes and land from colonial invasion.  As one student noted,

“Because it’s a children’s book, they wanted to make it ‘nicer.’ ”

Working together, teachers and kids identified three primary areas of concern with As An Oak Tree Grows:

  1. The pictures show a lot of empty land, as if it was uninhabited; one wigwam appears in the first…

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