Feb 18, 2012

Home Schooling Tip 3: History Through Literature

by Juli Herman

History is one subject that can induce immediate drowsiness just at its mention. No surprise there!

Not when it’s presented as dry facts devoid of a more personal and human approach. This can change when history is approached via reading historical fiction pertaining to that era or event.

What I have been doing thus far, after realizing how disconnected and dry it is to learn history from textbooks, is to pick an era of American history for example, that we’re going to learn about. This idea actually came to me from the book United States History Through Children’s Literature by Wanda J. Miller. The list of historical fiction related to a certain era is listed in the book, but I went and looked up more fiction, checked them out of the library, and read them before using them with my kids.

Right now, we are studying the Jim Crow era, so I read aloud to them The Land by Mildred D. Taylor, and from there, we read non-fiction books related to that era namely Life Under Jim Crow Laws by Charles George. By tying the facts in the non-fiction book to what the characters underwent in The Land, history comes alive and more interesting. Instead of prattling off dry historical facts, you can mention a character from a book and depict the historical facts as experienced by that character. Put some ‘life’ into your history lessons by using these historical fictions, from which you can also assign literature and writing assignments such as book reviews, journal entries, research writing among many others.


Jazakallah Khair for the tip. Historical fiction is definitely more intriguing than a dry history textbook. There is one set of history textbooks that I have come across that is written like a story and the children really enjoy it. It is by Joy Hakim and is called 'The History of US.' It can be found at most public libraries as well. 

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