A book that teaches young children to cope with issues like stress and anxiety is now available in two Indigenous languages, after the author says she was inspired to have her work translated into both Cree and Anishinaabe.
“I feel as a settler on this land, I am called to work towards reconciliation,” Winnipeg teacher and author Karla Dueck Thiessen said.
Dueck Thiessen, who teaches at Queenston School in Winnipeg, has had four editions of her book ‘It Starts With a Breath’ published since 2019. The book gives specific breathing and mindful tips for young children and school students to help them to deal with issues like stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
Dueck Thiessen said that while reading the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the report’s calls to action, she recently found inspiration to translate her book into both the Cree and Anishinaabe languages.
“I was just reading through the calls to action, and one of them is to ‘create student capacity for intercultural understanding, and empathy and mutual respect,’ so it occurred to me that the book could be a connection point,” Dueck Thiessen said.
After deciding she wanted the book translated Dueck Thiessen worked with Winnipeg-based Indigenous educators Gloria Barker and Lorraine George to translate the book into both Cree and Anishinaabe.
Thanks to a combination of grants and fundraising she said the English version of the book is now available in libraries and book stores across the city, but they are now working to get the Indigenous language versions of the books into every school in Winnipeg, as well as to agencies and charities in the province that work with Indigenous children.
“We did this because we really wanted to honour and help to spread Indigenous languages,” Dueck Thiessen said. “There just aren’t a lot of resources for teachers in those languages, and teachers have a hard time finding those kinds of resources, so we think this will be a really good tool for them.
“And when kids see their own language in these books, I hope they will really connect to it.”
And while Dueck Thiessen hopes to spread Indigenous languages through her work, she said the book is also important because she does not see enough books or resources that teach kids to deal with stress and anxiety-related issues.
“We teach workers in many sectors, and professional athletes how to properly breathe to relax, but we often don’t teach that to young people, and I believe that needs to be a bigger part of curriculum in schools,” she said.
“To be in a calm space and ready to learn in any situation is the basic foundation for learning.”
She added that children as young as three years old can use the techniques in the book, and work on them with friends and family members.
If young children don’t learn strategies to deal with stress and anxiety-related issues, Dueck Thiessen said that can lead to larger and more serious issues down the road.
“When we push down our feelings it leads to anxiety and depression,” she said. “So that is why I believe this is such an important resource.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun