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Showing posts from January, 2020

Children's Historical Fiction, Historical Awareness, and the Professional Dilemma

When historical fiction is taught in elementary and middle school classrooms, it is often presented as literature, or alongside works of nonfiction and primary sources. Children’s historical fiction is not regularly taught for its own educational merit or as means of gaining historical awareness. While the pairing of fiction and nonfiction is a useful tool that teaches the importance of scholarly and primary sources, we must also consider how these stories alone can positively impact children to become better students and members of society. Around the time that students enter middle school, their knowledge of the past begins to shift from snapshots of famous people and events, to a broader critical understanding of the context behind these things that happened long ago. Because of this, children’s historical fiction, primarily published at the middle-grade reading level, are perfect tools for gaining historical awareness. It is an understatement to say that educators and libraria

Read What You Don’t Know: Ten Diverse Books I Read for my “Reading without Walls” Challenge

This past June, I had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association’s annual conference. I heard a lot of different library professionals and authors speak, but one session stood among the rest. On the last full day of the conference, I joined a room full of children’s librarians for the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) annual awards breakfast. As the award for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal was being presented to March: Book Three , author Congressman John Lewis stepped up to the microphone and received a standing ovation. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of all his experiences during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid- 20 th Century, and his continued fight for human dignity and equality today. These past few months, a spotlight has swung again on hate and bigotry in our country. While we applaud the triumphs of stories like March , we are reminded just how much we still have to overcome. I left the breakfast inspired. Ear

Top Ten Historical Fiction Titles to Encourage a Diverse Understanding of the Past

This article was written for the Nerdy Book Club. The original post can be read here . When teachers and librarians encourage students to read historical, they not only provide a way to understand the past, they also promote an enjoyment in learning. Historical fiction has not always been used in this way, however. For centuries, children’s literature, and historical fiction in general, failed to accurately reflect and include global humanity. In the nineteenth century, school textbooks would regularly feature stories to illustrate the individual triumphs of those with good character and civic virtue. These stories taught local history, government, and national identity, but they were often ethnocentric and male-dominated narratives. Things began to change in the twentieth century when the Industrial Revolution and mass immigration from Europe influenced writers to embrace realism. Instead of focusing on the privileged and powerful, they captured the lives of comm

Historical Fiction Subgenres & Blends

"What matters in the historical novel is not the re-telling of great historical events, but the poetic awakening of the people who figured in those events. What matters is that we should re-experience the social and human motives which led men to think, feel and act just as they did in historical reality.” - György Lukács (1) Accurate historical fiction, written by hard working authors (and illustrators)-turned-historians, can both educate and entertain. In the social studies classroom, educators often pair historical fiction with works of non-fiction and primary sources. Other times, works of historical fiction are read purely for fun. It’s possible the book was purchased at an online bookstore, given as a birthday gift, or checked out from the local library. Regardless, by the time a young reader has finished reading a work of historical fiction, they have gained some amount of historical awareness. What is so important about history anyways? It’s often s

Pairing Classic and Contemporary Children's Historical Fiction

"Values and ideologies, human actions and reactions are not trans-historical; they are contingent on the historical context of the era and are radically different from the present." - Kim Wilson, Re-Visioning Historical Fiction for Young Readers (1) “Historical novels are always products of a particular historical context. As a result, their characters and historical arguments reflect the knowledge, politics, and worldview of authors at a particular moment in time.” - Sara Schwebel, Child-Sized History (2) Below is a selection of classic children’s historical fiction published between the years of 1951 and 1985. While the “history” displayed in these novels has not changed, the context has. What Wilson and Schwebel say is true: historical fiction is a product of one’s own time. An historical story written in the 1950s will be different from one written in the 2000s. Many factors can contribute to this. As time passes, roles, attitudes, and expectation