Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Learning History through Children's Literature.

Learning History through Children's Literature. One of the best ways to teach children history is to include the subject in their reading books. This article examines this issue.

From the site:

Teaching history using children's literature, both fiction and non-fiction, is an old idea enjoying new vitality in the elementary and middle school curriculum. This Digest discusses (1) the revival of interest in teaching history through children's literature, (2) research-based guidelines for teachers of history and children's literature, and (3) an innovative method of teaching history using children's literature.


Using literature to teach history is not a recent educational innovation. Stories illustrating the triumphs of individuals embodying civic virtue and good character were at the curricular core of nineteenth-century common schools. Narratives provided children with an understanding of American history and government as well as the attributes that individual citizens needed to maintain the Republic. Spelling and reading books were primary means of this kind of cultural transmission. Generations of American children defined themselves individually and communally through stories and amalgams of fiction and fact in the McGuffy readers and similar textbooks used almost universally in schools during the last century.

An indicator of increasing interest among educators in using literature to teach history is the large number of scholarly and popular articles published in the past ten years advocating this teaching method. A number of factors account for this resurgence, such as the high quality and number of fiction and non-fiction publications written for children in the past twenty years; activities of prominent historians and educators to re-establish history's primacy in the social studies curriculum; advocacy of the whole language teaching method; concern that children have an inadequate historical understanding of the cultural characteristics that hold the Republic together; recognition that many students need to develop tolerance of individuals unlike themselves; and attention to the long-standing problems of students' lack of interest in basic school subjects (Epstein 1993; Krey 1998).

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