I write historical fiction. I’ve discussed before the many reasons why historical fiction is important, most especially these days. (Did you see my article, Doctor Who and Historical Fiction?)
Our history is full of amazing stories. The artistic nature of historical fiction presents several challenges, especially in books for children. Events must be winnowed in order to create forward movement that leads to a resolution. Historical fiction makes the facts matter to the reader.
Historical fiction helps young readers develop a feeling for a living past, illustrating the continuity of life, according to Karen Cushman. Historical fiction, “like all good history, demonstrates how history is made up of the decisions and actions of individuals and that the future will be made up of our decisions and actions.”
David McCullough once said, “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by-and-large historically illiterate…The textbooks are dreary, they’re done by committee, they’re often hilariously politically correct and they’re not doing any good. [But] there are wonderful books, past and present. There is literature in history.”
Through the years, I’ve discovered several resources that have proven valuable not only for research, but also about teaching history to young readers.
You’ve probably heard of these:
Teachinghistory.org is designed to “help K–12 history teachers access resources and materials to improve U.S. history education in the classroom. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) has created Teachinghistory.org with the goal of making history content, teaching strategies, resources, and research.”
“…good historical fiction exercises a child’s imagination through a vicarious experience. It leads children to use themselves and their own lives as comparisons to the characters that lived long ago and often, far away, to reflect on their own experience, to ask their families questions. It awakens awareness, perks up perception, sparks conversations. Reading historical fiction can lead a child to ask, “What’s my voice? What’s my view? Which side should I be on? Is there a right side?” – Valerie Tripp, Vitamins in Chocolate Cake: Why Use Historical Fiction in the Classroom? (2011 )
One of my favorite sites, the Zinn Education Project “promotes and supports the teaching of people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. Based on the lens of history highlighted in Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States, the website offers free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.”
Important in these political times is teaching students how to be engaged citizens by learning their history. Colonial Williamsburg is one of my favorite resources where you can “connect with a community of educators and find the tools you need to inspire students to become engaged citizens.”
Presented by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in partnership with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, this amazing exhibition asks the challenging question, “How could the author of the Declaration of the Independence own slaves? How could twenty percent of the population of the new United States, founded on the principles of liberty and equality, live in bondage?”
Speaking of amazing resources, don't forget to enter (here) our new drawing for a chance to win a copy of the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2017!
What do you think? Do you have any favorite resources?