U.S. History Through Children's Literature was written for use by teachers in grades four through eight. The purpose of this book is to provide teachers with information to begin or expand their use of quality children's literature in the teaching of United States history. Teachers who have already begun teaching history in this format have been forced to purchase their own materials and create their own questions, activities, vocabulary exercises, and lessons to supplement the trade books that they are using. With the many demands on their time, including regular teaching duties, parent conferences, staff meetings, committee meetings, and paperwork, teachers do not have the time or energy to build a literature-based history program from the ground up. U.S. History Through Children's Literature was written to help fill this need.
The core of any good literature-based curriculum is a collection of quality trade books. The trade books recommended for inclusion in this book were selected based on teacher recommendations, book reviews, and recommendations from librarians.
Teachers often have to purchase numerous trade book guides, as what is currently available, while often good, may only cover a certain time period, or a small sampling of books dealing with various time periods. In addition, many guides may have excellent activities, but do not include discussion questions or vocabulary, or vice versa.
The advantages of using children's literature to supplement your United States history lessons are numerous. The greatest advantage is having historical literature at your fingertips when teaching about a certain historic time period.
Nothing brings history more alive than reading quality literature about what life was like during that time. Although the facts learned in textbooks are very important, students more easily grasp a true understanding of the time period and hardships through a historical character's dilemmas, thoughts, and feelings.
Students forget facts and details learned strictly from textbooks more easily than those learned through immersion in literature based on the time period. Because a lasting impression and understanding of history is our ultimate goal for our students, use of historical literature in addition to textbook teaching is a must, whether it be in social studies class, English, or reading.
To immerse your students in quality historical literature, you should have available a classroom set of a novel to be read as a whole group (approximately 30 copies), several small group sets (4–5 copies) of other titles to use in cooperative learning groups, and many individual titles for read-alouds, extra-credit opportunities, and research. In addition to recommending titles, this book also includes ideas for the teacher in the development of the theme, including activities, writing ideas, and summaries of each large and small group title. Research topics are suggested for each chapter as well.