Common Core, Informational Texts, and the Historical (Mis)representations of Native Americans within Trade Books

By Bickford, John H.,, III | The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences, October 2014 | Go to article overview

Common Core, Informational Texts, and the Historical (Mis)representations of Native Americans within Trade Books


Bickford, John H.,, III, The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences


Native Americans are frequently included within elementary school history curriculum. Trade books are a staple for elementary teachers. Educators should be cognizant of how the literature they select historically represents Native Americans and their culture, religion, and historical interactions with European explorers, colonists, and eventually Americans. Blogs, like American Indians in Children's Literature, and books, like Child Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms, provide illustrative examples of trade books' misrepresentation. No scholarship, however, has empirically evaluated how Native Americans are historically represented in currently available trade books.

As Sara Schwebel (2011) has convincingly demonstrated, companies that publish children's books are businesses. Their job is to sell books; they do not always ensure the historicity, or historical accuracy, of the books they sell. In order to sell more books, publishing companies may potentially compromise historicity in order to avoid controversial topics. Such ahistoricity could (potentially) emerge in books about Native Americans that narrow their focuses to only include information about their culture, religion, or folktales and give little reference to the historical path they took from controlling North America to being isolated and marginalized. Ahistoricity could also appear if the author disregarded or significantly minimized mention of violence. Historical misrepresentation can take many forms, as various scholars have convincingly demonstrated (Chick, 2006; King, Davis, & Brown, 2012; Loewen, 1995; Matusevich, 2006). Heroification and villainification appear when one person (or group) and is given entirely more credit or blame for changing history than is realistically deserved. Heroification and villainification were noted in children's literature that portrayed Christopher Columbus as either a near-deity or evil incarnate (Bickford, 2013a). Exceptionalism emerges when an extraordinary historical figure is portrayed as typical. While certainly worthy of celebration, Harriet Tubman's life experiences do not illustrate that of a typical slave; exceptionalism was common in slavery-based children's literature (Bickford & Rich, 2014a; Schwebel, 2011; Williams, 2009). Omission surfaces when important information is excluded from a historical account. Many children's authors omitted Helen Keller's accomplishments after age eight (Bickford & Rich, 2014b). Trade books are potentially replete with historical misrepresentations.

Generalizations about trade books' historical misrepresentations, however, cannot be made for many reasons. First, historical misrepresentations inconsistently materialize. Literature intended for younger audiences is invariably less complex but not necessarily more historically misrepresentative. Some of the most historically representative books about slavery were intended for elementary students while some of the most misrepresentative were intended for middle level readers (Bickford & Rich, 2014a; Schwebel, 2011; Williams, 2009). Second, the emergence of historical misrepresentations is seemingly dependent to the historical topic within the children's literature. In a study on literature intended for elementary students, trade books about Eleanor Roosevelt largely achieved historicity while literature about Rosa Parks and Helen Keller were comparatively ahistorical (Bickford & Rich, 2014b). Finally, there is a dearth of empirical research about elementary-level history-based children's literature, especially about Native Americans. Scholars have examined children's trade books about Columbus's interactions with Native Americans (Bickford, 2013a; Bigelow, 1998a, 1998b; Henning, Snow-Gerono, Reed, & Warner, 2006; Peterson, 1998) and traced the historical patterns of Native American representation within children's literature over the past two centuries (Schwebel, 2011) yet no empirical research exists about the content within Native American-based trade books currently available for teachers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Common Core, Informational Texts, and the Historical (Mis)representations of Native Americans within Trade Books
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.