Teach kids about history – even preschoolers can learn!

When it comes to teaching kids about our country’s history – we might not know when to start.  Sure, they get a smattering of U.S. history in preschool, kindergarten, and the primary grades.  But in my experience, I didn’t get my first big dose of American history until fifth grade.

Let’s change that!

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Today I’m going to share how to teach kids about history —  using one simple word.

READ.

Too simple, right?  Actually, reading with our kids and talking about the books is one of the best ways to help them learn.  You may not live near a Native American museum.  Read about it! You may be far removed from the Civil War battle sites.  Pick up a book!  You  might love to visit Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, but you’re not driving across the country.  No problem. There are books for that.

While it’s true that visiting historical sites is an awesome way to teach your kids about American history, it’s also true that books are not only a wonderful stand-in, but they should be first.  The next time you plan to visit a museum or landmark, check with your library beforehand.  Build background with a great history book for kids.

Ah, but what are those?  It’s extremely hard to find accessible, interesting history books for kids ages 4-10.

Never fear! The “If You…” series from Scholastic is here!

if you series scholastic Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

I’ve loved this series ever since I began teaching grades 3-5 fourteen years ago (I’ll pause while you do the math there).  These books are fabulous for many reasons.

Why I love the “If you…” series of history books by Scholastic

1) They are great for many age levels.

a) I had these tucked away in my box of books for my kids to enjoy when they were in about third grade.  But when my four-year-old daughter asked me to read one, she was hooked.

b) Now that my daughter has finished kindergarten, she reads these books on her own.   The content and vocabulary are appropriate for advanced readers of a young age.

c) Kids in the primary grades who can’t quite read these independently will learn a lot from listening to a parent or teacher read and discuss the series.

d) The books are perfect for independent readers in grades 3 through 5.  They’re a great support for the American history these children will be learning in school.

2) I love the layout – it means you can skip around without losing meaning.

There are no chapters.  Instead, the books are organized with a series of questions.  As you can see, these can be read out of order without any difficulty.  Since sitting through all 60+ pages of history in one sitting is a lot to expect from a little one, pick and choose.  You know what interests your child.

My daughter is always interested in pages that tell about food.

3) The  illustrations are beautiful and many. 

Nothing’s worse than a history book for kids that skimps on illustrations. Pages of single-spaced text are going to scare away even an avid reader.  These books are accessible even to preschoolers because of the many engaging illustrations.  On occasion, historical photographs are included as well.

4) The content is appropriate for young children.

 Let’s face it – history can be gruesome.  I don’t like it when I’m reading what I think should be a great nonfiction book to my kids – and then I have to stop in my tracks and edit.  That’s even harder now that my Six is reading over my shoulder!  But I can feel comfortable having her read these books on her own.  They don’t sugarcoat history – but they spare the details that young children aren’t ready to handle.

5) The series covers a big span of United States history.

My library doesn’t carry this series (how could they have missed it??), but I can get the books by requesting titles from other libraries. As I was researching this post I was excited to discover newer books that I’ve missed.  We’ll be asking for these soon!

These books are also great to own – consider ordering a few for your home library.  For your convenience, I’ve arranged them in chronological order – not by publishing date, but by when the events occurred in history.

If You Lived With The Cherokee 788 590x493 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived with the Cherokee, by Peter Roop (© 1998)

if you lived with sioux 590x485 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived with the Sioux Indians, by Ann McGovern (© 1992)

If You Lived with the Hopi Indians Kamma Anne 9780590397261 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived with the Hopi Indians, by Anne Kamma (© 1999)

northwest coast Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived with the Indians of the Northwest Coast, by Anne Kamma (©  2002)

iroquois 590x485 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived with the Iroquois, by Ellen Levine (© 1999)

mayflower 590x492 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, by Ann McGovern (© 1991)

squanto1 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived in the Time of Squanto, byAnne Kamma (© 2006)

thanksgiving Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Were at the First Thanksgiving, by Anne Kamma (© 2001)

if you george washington Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Grew up with George Washington, by Ruth Belov Gross (©1988)

colonial 590x490 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived in Colonial Times, by Ann McGovern (1992)

colonial days Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days, by Barbara Brenner (© 2000)

revolution Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution, by Kay Moore (© 1998)

constitution Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution,by Elizabeth Levy (© 1992)

west Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, by Ellen Levine (© 1992)

pioneer Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Were a Pioneer on the Prairie, by Anne Kamma (© 2003)

abe Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Grew up with Abraham Lincoln, by Ann McGovern (© 1976)

slavery Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America, by Anne Kamma (© 2004)

civil war Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War, by Kay Moore (© 1994)

The Underground Railroad Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine (© 1993)

ellis 590x486 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island, by Ellen Levine (© 1994)

if you earthquake Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake, by Ellen Levine (© 1992)

women Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights, by Anne Kamma (© 2008)

martin luther king Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn! If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King, by Ellen Levine (1994)

Today I’m doing a guest post over at Mother-Daughter Book Reviews.  Come visit and see what my daughter and I had to say about one of our favorite “If You” books!

For more recommended books to read with your kids, check out this link:

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© 2013 – 2014, The Measured Mom. All rights reserved.

button print grnw20 Teach kids about history   even preschoolers can learn!

Comments

  1. says

    I totally agree with you on teaching history at a young age. We listened to all 4 volumes of Story of the World with our 6 year old and read many-many history picture books and chapter books. We were focusing more on the World history, so our favorite series similar to If You Lived… is You Wouldn’t Want to Be… It sends children to various parts and various time periods of the world – quite fun.
    Natalie recently posted…Egypt History Lesson–A Field Trip and a BookMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says

      Thanks for the recommendations, Natalie! I looked at the preview of the Story of the World series… it looks great! I’m hoping my six year old will enjoy it – I reserved volume one at our library. I also requested a few of the You Wouldn’t Want to Be series… I can’t wait to check them out!

  2. says

    Thanks for the recommendation. We have been reading the “My First Biography” series by Scholastic but these look more in depth. We just ordered a few for my 4-year-old!

    • Anna Geiger says

      I just reserved a few of the My First Biography series at the library, Carla. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Anna Geiger says

      You’re very welcome, Katie! I’ve found a few other series that are new to me in the comments section that I’m checking out myself.

  3. says

    I’ve seen these in the bookstore but haven’t purchased them yet. I know we will be hitting them soon as we have really started to get into history, especially social history. Thanks for the great reminder! I’m actually writing a post about great non-fiction series and I’m going to have to include these (and link back to you of course).
    michelle recently posted…a history lesson wrapped up in a nice storyMy Profile

    • Anna Geiger says

      Just finished reading your about page, Kriss — you’ve certainly been around! I do think these books will be great to teach your kids about US history!

  4. says

    Thanks for a fascinating review – I’ve been looking for good history books for my dd. I have a question on these – do they honestly tell about Christianity in US history, or do they pretend it never existed? I have looked and looked for a good Thanksgiving book, but ALL of them at the library leave out what Thanksgiving was REALLY about – Giving Thanks to God. Are these better? Thanks : )

    • Anna Geiger says

      Hello, Anna! I looked more closely at this book to answer your question. We actually just read the Thanksgiving book. The books are not Christian themselves — they do not promote Christianity – but they definitely acknowledge it and share the historical facts. The book talks about how Pilgrims were thankful to be able to worship God the way they wanted.

      The Mayflower book talks about how the Pilgrims wanted to have their own church so they wouldn’t have to obey the rules of the King’s church. It mentions bringing a Bible along on the voyage , singing psalms on the trip, and saying prayers to God upon reaching the new land. It also talks about the first Thanksgiving in that book: “…Most important, they had done what they had set out to do. They had found a place to live where they could worship God in their own way. And so the Pilgrims decided to set aside a special time to give thanks.”

      Hope this helps!

      • says

        Thanks so much for checking this out for me! : )

        All I expect from a history book is that it be honest about the role of Faith in history, and not cover it up or lie about it. Since the Mayflower Pilgrims were motivated to travel to a new land exclusively because of religion, and the first Thanksgiving was exclusively a religiously motivated observance, I see it as dishonest to omit those facts.

        I appreciate knowing that these books include them – and may well seek them out.

        Thanks for the help : )

  5. says

    Such a great idea to have accessible history books for the littlies – we have the fantastic My Australian Story and Our Australian Girl series for middle readers, but I’m not sure about what’s available for younger readers….hmmm, will have to look into this more closely from a local viewpoint. Thanks for posting!
    Bruce Gargoyle recently posted…Kid Lit Blog Hop #22: Join in if…..My Profile

    • Anna Geiger says

      Not sure how meaningful it would be for Australians :), but if you’re interested in learning some U.S. history, these are a great choice!

    • Anna Geiger says

      My daughter was just reading that one in the car the other day, Heather – she loves anything about food :) I hope your son enjoys the books – and thanks for sharing on your Facebook page!

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