Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summertime--and the Reading is Easy by Mary Louise Sanchez

Summer is the time teachers reflect on and evaluate the past year's lessons. Teachers also take summer staff development classes; and wouldn't it be beneficial if you received practical lessons which emphasized best practices for teaching history.

Summer is a good time to pique your interest in history by reading or listening to great historical fictional stories for children as you travel the highways. Imagine how much more prepared you'd be to pick those "just right" historical fiction books for your students that correlate with the curriculum and standards. 

In an interview with Teaching History.Org in 2011, Valerie Tripp, best known for her American Girl historical fiction characters, discussed how to make a period of history matter to your students. As you're reading those wonderful historical fiction stories think about how they can make history come alive using her suggestions.

She suggested that you consider where your students are right now and connect them to the past.  How would you celebrate your birthday? What would your chores be? What would your hopes and dreams be?

She also said "it is emotion—making a person-to-person connection, imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes—that sparks, fuels, and maintains a student's interest in a period of history."

There are so many resources which list great books, and here are just two of them which highlight history and social studies for children. One wonderful resource is the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

 It is awarded annually to "a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults." To be eligible, "a book must have been published as a book intended for children or young people, it must be set in the New World (Canada, Central or South America, or the United States), it must be published by a publisher in the United States, and it must be written in English by a citizen of the United States."

By Historical Period
1993 prize Michael Dorris, Morning Girl, 1492 The Bahamas
1984 prize Elizabeth Speare, The Sign of the Beaver
1985 prize Avi, The Fighting Ground
1987 prize Scott O’Dell, Streams to the River, River to the Sea
(Sacagawea; Lewis & Clark) Early 19th Century
2006 prize Louise Erdrich, The Game of Silence, Ojibwe Mid 19th Century
1986 prize Patrician MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Late 19th Century
2005 prize A. LaFaye, Worth Orphan Train, Nebraska Late 19th Century
2003 prize Shelley Pearsall, Trouble Don’t Last, Underground Railroad
1997 prize Katherine Paterson, Jip, His Story, 1855-56 VT
2008 prize Christopher Paul Curtis, Elijah of Buxton, Escaped slaves, Canada
1988 prize Patricia Beatty, Charley Skedaddle
1994 prize Paul Fleischman, Bull Run
2004 prize Richard Peck, The River Between Us
1990 prize Carolyn Reeder, Shades of Gray
1999 prize Harriette Gillem Robinet, 40 Acres and Maybe a Mule
2002 prize Mildred D. Taylor, The Land
1991 prize Pieter van Raven, A Time of Trouble
1998 prize Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust
2010 prize Matt Phelan, The Storm in the Barn
2012 prize Jack Gantos, Dead End in Norvelt
1992 prize Mary Downing Hahn, Stepping on the Cracks
1995 prize Graham Salisbury, Under the Blood-Red Sun
2000 prize Miriam Bat-Ami, Two Suns in the Sky
2001 prize Janet Taylor Lisle, The Art of Keeping Cool
2007 prize Ellen Klages, The Green Glass Sea
1996 prize Theodore Taylor, The Bomb
2011 prize Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer
1989 prize Lyll Becerra de Jenkins, The Honorable Prison

Another resource for historical fiction books for children is the Notable Books List published by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCCS). A panel of educators and librarians read more than 200 books to select these "notable books." Lists from prior years are free, and you can purchase the newest list or access it for free with a membership in NCCS. The database of lists by the years have general reading levels and applicable NCSS standards are identified. The lists also have an annotation of the book.
                                                 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) 

My public library has a fun, visual way to track summer reading. Children and adults add a pom-pom to the large container in the library for every book that is read.

Perhaps you could add a coin to a jar for every book you read. If you read historical fiction books aimed at youth, (which are usually shorter) just imagine how much money you'll have by the time school starts again!


  1. Another way to interest kids in historical fiction is to connect the stories to places we visit while on summer vacation. I love to visit places I've read about (like Green Gables) and to learn the history of places I've visited (like the South Dakota Black Hills).

  2. Yes, these connections make settings and people come alive for all ages. "Read all about it before you go" is my motto to make a trip memorable.