Saturday, August 21, 2010

Favorite Books for Teaching American History

by Virginia Knowles

Favorite Series Fiction 
  • American Girls series -- elementary level fiction about seven young ladies from different eras, such as Colonial Williamsburg, the Civil War, immigrant pioneers, etc. Each girl has six books which give a fascinating flavor of typical lifestyles. There are supplemental craft, cooking, and drama titles for each character, as well as the dolls, accessories and trading cards.
  • The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the classics for a study on pioneers. Look for other spin-off books (cooking, crafts, etc.) and easy readers.
  • The American Adventures series by multiple authors such as Norma Jean Lutz -- 48 novels, covering time period from 1620-1945 (these may be out-of-print but you can find them on-line or in used bookstores)
  • Christian Heritage series by Nancy Rue -- novels covering Colonial period until World War II, for ages 8-12. (Bethany House / Focus on the Family)
Favorite Biography & Other Non-Fiction  
  • If You Lived... series published by Scholastic Books -- easy books which tell about daily life, especially for children, during various historical eras
  • Meet George Washington and other Step-Up biographies (early elementary)
  • Childhood of Famous Americans -- series of easy biographies covering the early lives of dozens of the greats. See related blog post by Cheryl Bastian.
  • Pocahontas, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and other books by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire -- highly illustrated, but lots of text
  • Cornerstones of Freedom series -- focuses on key events and landmarks in American history, such as the California Gold Rush or the Statue of Liberty.
  • Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?, George Washington’s Mother and other history books by Jean Fritz -- written with a tongue-in-cheek style
  • The Thanksgiving Story and The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh (early elementary)
  • In God We Trust: Stories of Faith in American History by Timothy Crater and Ranelda Hunsicker (published by Chariot) -- short, readable biographies of American’s Christian leaders, all in one volume. This is a must have book!
Favorite Historical Picture and Easy Read Books 
  • Samuel Eaton’s Day and Sarah Morton’s Day by Kate Waters (early colonial, picture books)
  • Squanto, Friend of Pilgrims and A Lion to Guard Us (about Jamestown) by Clyde Robert Bulla -- early elementary
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh -- easy novel, early pioneer times in Pennsylvania
  • A Picture Book of Paul Revere and other books by David Adler -- you should be able to find these in your public library
  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz -- a sweet tale, based on a true story, about living in Western Pennsylvania in the 1700s (easy novel)
  • The Blue and the Gray by Eve Bunting -- two modern friends, one black and one white, looking back on a Civil War battlefield (picture book)
  • Growing Seasons by Elise Lee Splear, paintings by Ken Stark -- farm life around 1906 (picture book with lots of informative text)
  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry -- picture book story of the famous artist
  • Lights on the River by Jane Resh Thomas (picture book about migrant workers)  
Favorite Historical Novels for Upper Elementary and Middle School 
Note: Our family has accumulated hundreds of American history resources. To keep track of them, I created a spreadsheet chart. I include the unit study number (1 - 6), book or video title, author, grade level, specific time period, genre (fiction, photographic reference, biography, picture book, poetry, etc.), and a comment on the specific topic if it isn't apparent from the title. If there is a story, article, or poem in an anthology (such as William Bennett's Book of Virtues or The Moral Compass), I list the title of the piece along with the page numbers. The same goes for chapters in history text books, such as A Beka, which we also use as needed. So when I get ready for teaching a particular time period, I just need to consult my chart and look for the books. This isn't too hard, because I organized my school bookcases so that all of my American history books are clustered on about 6 shelves, roughly in order by time period.

This list is a companion article to Weekly Grading and Lesson Planning.  I'll try to update it as I think of other books, so check back!

Virginia Knowles

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all this information. Very helpful as I am pulling together a short history study for my children. I had forgotten that I own a copy of A Pioneer Sampler!


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