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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections
Introduce the values and principles of democracy and the formation and roles of our government with these civic-minded picture books, informational titles, and poetry.
Children are often referred to as the future leaders of our country. This truism has led to a tradition of teaching students the basic principles of the U.S. government so that they can make informed decisions as adults. Unfortunately, the instructional time previously reserved for teaching social studies has been severely reduced due to an overriding emphasis on instruction in reading and math. If this trend continues, new generations of students are at risk of becoming citizens with little knowledge of the people, history, and democratic values of the United States.
Educators, parents, and community groups are searching for creative ways to promote students’ interest in democratic principles and political procedures. One effective method for accomplishing this goal is to encourage young people to explore compelling books about American history and government. It is equally important for adults to be available to answer questions, engage children in discussions about what they are reading, and direct them to additional resources as their interest in American democracy grows. As children read freely, they may be introduced to a wider scope and a deeper understanding of topics than could be achieved through the traditional social studies curriculum.
The following bibliography includes titles for elementary- and middle-school students that cover social studies concepts typically found in national and state content standards, including the values and principles of democracy, the formation and responsibilities of governing bodies, and the roles and responsibilities of citizens.
In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights. By Russell Freedman. 2003. illus. 196p. Holiday, $24.95 (9780823415854). 342.73. Gr. 5–10.
In his signature clear, conversational prose, Freedman presents the history of the Bill of Rights, including each amendment’s origins, as well as contemporary interpretations and conflicts. A must for classroom discussion, this title closes with source notes and an annotated bibliography that will help students with further research.
A Time for Freedom. By Lynne Cheney. 2005. 304p. illus. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (9781416909255); Aladdin, paper, $8.99 (9781416949152). 973. Gr. 5–8.
In more than 300 pages, Cheney, author and wife of the former vice president, follows the chronology of our country, beginning with its early exploration and concluding with September 11, 2001, a day that will forever be remembered in the history of our nation. Brief descriptions of historical events are given, along with more in-depth discussions of significant political and cultural moments. The book can be read cover to cover, or the detailed index can be used to locate specific dates and events.
Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation. By Jacqueline Jules. Illus. by Jef Czekaj. 2009. 48p. Charlesbridge, paper, $7.95 (9781580891905). 973.3. Gr. 3–6.
With a clever stage-play format featuring cartoonlike characters representing the original colonies, this book explains the process by which our country was forged into a nation based on the principles in the Constitution. The text provides information about the conflicts and compromises of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, while the play’s amusing dialogue is delivered in speech bubbles.
Landmarks and Locations
America Is . . . By Louise Borden. Illus. by Stacey Schuett. 2002. 40p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $18.99 (9780689839009); paper, $7.99 (9781416902867). 811. Gr. 2–4.
America is defined here in multiple ways through poetry and pictures. The U.S. is described according to its places, people, and events, from the past to the present. The words to the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem are also included, along with a map of the U.S.
Capital. By Lynn Curlee. Illus. by the author. 2003. 48p. Atheneum, paper, $22.99 (9781416918011). 975.3. Gr. 2–5.
Readers will feel as if they are on a field trip to Washington, D.C., as they read about five of the most recognizable buildings in our capital city: the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. A chronicle of building construction, history, and interesting trivia accompanies Curlee’s faithfully detailed acrylic art.
Home to Me: Poems across America. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by Stephen Alcorn. 2002. 48p. Orchard, o.p. 811.008. Gr. 2–5.
This collection of 15 poems about life in America is written by those who know it best. The commissioned works represent diverse geographical regions as seen by those who reside there. Illustrations by Alcorn serve as a common thread woven through this landscape of poetry.
Our Liberty Bell. By Henry Jonas Magaziner. Illus. by John O’Brien. 2007. 32p. Holiday, $15.95 (9780823418923). 974.8. Gr. 2–4.
This attractive picture book traces the history of the Liberty Bell, including its importance as a national symbol even after it cracked and traveled across the U.S. in the late 1800s to help reunify the country, as well as its significance for abolitionists, suffragists, and civil rights leaders throughout history.
Tour America: A Journey through Poems and Art. By Diane Siebert. Illus. by Stephen T. Johnson. 2006. 64p. Chronicle, o.p. 811. Gr. 3–6.
This mixed-media picture book merges visual representations of U.S. locales with poetry, offering a unique perspective on sights around the country. Poems include couplets, humorous rhymes, and reflective pieces that match the moods of the accompanying illustrations, which are executed in watercolor, oil, acrylic, pastel, collage, and photography.
America: A Patriotic Primer. By Lynne Cheney. Illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser. 2002. 40p. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (9780689851926). 178.3. Gr. 2–4.
Cheney offers readers a view of America with an ABC book featuring a wide range of symbols associated with our country. E is for equality, P for patriotism, and V for valor. Detailed illustrations and facts make this a book to enjoy again and again. Follow this title with the team’s Our 50 States: A Family Adventure across America (2006), which offers a fact-filled trip across the United States. Glasser’s cartoonlike illustrations share a wide array of information about each of the 50 states as a family of five write letters home about what they see and learn on their journey from Massachusetts to Hawaii.
Happy Birthday, America! By Marsha Wilson Chall. Illus. by Guy Porfirio. 2000. 32p. HarperCollins, $17.99 (9780688130510). PreS–Gr. 2.
The Fourth of July in America often means parades and picnics to commemorate the birth of our country. The characters in this story celebrate together with a seed-spitting contest, a game of checkers, and swimming in the lake before watching fireworks in the summer sky. Porfirio’s illustrations capture both the joy and the solemnity of the holiday.
I Pledge Allegiance. By Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. Illus. by Chris Raschka. 2002. 40p. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763616489); paper, $7.99 (9780763625276). 323.6. K–Gr. 4.
Although it is written for young children, Americans of all ages will learn from this book. The talented writers and illustrator bring the Pledge of Allegiance to life in such a way that readers will remember the meaning of its words for a lifetime. Learning activities for teachers and parents are also included.
D Is for Democracy: A Citizen’s Alphabet. By Elissa Grodin. Illus. by Victor Juhasz. 2004. 40p. Sleeping Bear, $16.95 (9781585362349); paper, $7.95 (9781585363285). 320.973. Gr. 5–8.
This ABC book focuses on the features of our government that define it as a democracy. A term, a rhyming verse, a related illustration, and a detailed explanation of the topic are provided for each letter of the alphabet. This colorfully illustrated picture book informs the reader and provides a good introduction to the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities we enjoy as Americans. Following a similar format, Grodin’s Everyone Counts: A Citizen’s Number Book (2006) recounts America’s unique history, beginning with 1 document (the Constitution) and ending with 100 senators (2 from each state).
Our Supreme Court: A History with 14 Activities. By Richard Panchyk. 2006. 208p. illus. Chicago Review, paper, $16.95 (9781556526077). Also available as an e-book edition. 347.73. Gr. 7–10.
Featuring drawings, portraits, and photos, these eight chapters tell the story of the laws of our land, from free speech to civil and property rights. Students can look up specific cases or browse to learn how this branch of the U.S. government operates. Readers can also learn how new technology affects change in laws, such as the ability to record television programs, or perform the featured activities related to Supreme Court decisions.
Understanding the U.S. Constitution. By Sally Isaacs. 2009. 32p. illus. Crabtree, lib. ed., $26.60 (9780778743736); paper, $8.95 (9780778743781). 320.973. Gr. 3–6.
Although it reads like a social studies textbook, Isaacs’ work provides a succinct chronology of events surrounding our nation’s most historic documents. The important issues decided by delegates at the Constitutional Convention, the acceptance of the Constitution, and the system of checks and balances between the three branches of government are described for the reader. Supplementary information includes a time line, related reading, and a glossary.
The U.S. Constitution and You. By Syl Sobel. 2001. 48p. illus. Barron’s, paper, $6.95 (9780764117077). 342.73. Gr. 3–6.
This easy-to-read guide provides an overview of the Constitution, including its history and framers. The three branches of government are explained with an emphasis on the power of the people in our democratic republic. Examples and reasons are given for the need to amend the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and a glossary explains terms used. Combine this title with Sobel’s How the U. S. Government Works (1999), which explains the basic structure of American government and includes an illustrated glossary that reinforces concepts and terminology.
VOTE! By Eileen Christelow. Illus. by the author. 2003. 48p. Clarion, $16 (9780618247547). 324.973. Gr. 2–5.
This accessible introduction to voting follows candidates through a mayoral election, from political rallies and fund-raisers to a successful recount. Along the way, all the pertinent questions are asked and answered: What is voting? Why doesn’t everyone vote? The art includes humorous asides by canine commentators, who help explain the action and add extra bits of information.
We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. By David Catrow. Illus. by the author. 2002. 32p. Dial, $16.99 (9780803725539); Puffin, paper, $6.99 (9780142402764). 342.73. PreS–Gr. 2.
The assignment of memorizing the preamble to the Constitution will be much easier for students when it is introduced in a picture-book format. Illustrations of three children and a precocious dog are provided for each concept expressed in this historic document. Catrow also includes a description of the U.S. Constitution as well as a glossary of terms.
Grace for President. By Kelly DiPucchio. Illus. by LeUyen Pham. 2008. 40p. Hyperion, $15.99 (9780786839193). Gr. 1–3.
Grace is shocked that no women appear on the poster of U.S. presidents hanging on the classroom wall, and the revelation spurs her into running in a class election. Grace and her opponent, Thomas, have different campaign styles, and in the end, she prevails. The true strength of this charmingly illustrated story is its clear explanation of the electoral college and how it works.
If I Ran for President. By Catherine Stier. Illus. by Lynne Avril. 2007. 32p. Albert Whitman, $15.95 (9780807535431). 324.70973. Gr. 3–5.
This candidate’s view of a presidential campaign takes readers from initial questions—“Am I the best person for the job? Am I ready to work VERY, VERY, VERY hard for my country? Do lots of people believe in me, and will they help me run for office?”—to the first day in the Oval Office. Children will come away with a better understanding of the complex election process and, just maybe, an enduring respect for it.
Make Your Own President. By Linda McKnight and Amy Pastan. 2006. 56p. illus. HarperCollins, paper, $14.95 (9780060891770). 973.09. PreS–Gr. 2.
This unique book explores the countenances, contributions, and quotes of 24 U.S. presidents. Portraits or photos of each face are divided into five sections, allowing the reader to mix and match the features of these leaders. The back side of each flip card includes a biography of and memorable quote by the featured president.
Our Country’s Presidents: All You Need to Know about the Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama. By Ann Bausum. 2005; revised 2009. 216p. illus. National Geographic, $24.95 (9781426303753); lib. ed., $35.90 (9781426303760). 973. Gr. 3–6.
This recent revision includes all 44 presidents elected to date. An introduction to the duties they have had in common as commander in chief are punctuated with unique facts about each individual, including nicknames, important dates, length of term in office, and more. Important to every American, these historical facts are accompanied by full-page depictions of each U.S. president’s portrait.
Presidents’ Day. By Anne Rockwell. Illus. by Lizzy Rockwell. 2008. 40p. HarperCollins, $16.99 (9780060501945); paper, $6.99 (9780060501969). PreS–Gr. 2.
A lively, diverse classroom planning a Presidents’ Day celebration sets the stage for sharing facts about the four widely regarded faces that appear on Mount Rushmore. During the play, four characters share facts about Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt. The book concludes with the class holding its own election.
So You Want to Be President? By Judith St. George. Illus. by David Small. 2000; revised 2004. 56p. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399243172). 973. Gr. 3–6.
Trivia is interwoven into this humorously illustrated look at past commanders in chief. Commonalities are pointed out, such as popular first names of presidents (James and John), as well as differences (size, age, personality, education, previous jobs held). The one thing all U.S. presidents have in common is repeating the same 35 words when taking the oath of office.
What Presidents Are Made Of. By Hanoch Piven. Illus. by the author. 2004. 40p. Atheneum, $18.99 (9780689868801); paper, $6.99 (9781442444331). 973. Gr. 2–4.
The personal pastimes and unique qualities of notable presidents are highlighted here in text and multimedia collage portraits featuring three-dimensional objects. Items used in each collage relate to the president portrayed, including a musket for Andrew Jackson’s mouth, a peanut for Jimmy Carter’s nose, and jelly beans for Ronald Reagan’s eyes. A time line with official portraits of each president from George Washington to George W. Bush is also included.
Karyn W. Tunks is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Teacher Education at the University of South Alabama.
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