The outdoor season is upon us. The kids are on summer recess and top of mind for them is all the fun they will have engaging with friends and family in a boatload of activities. Most likely their teachers gave them obligatory reading lists or sent notes home suggesting that parents help the children pick their own books.
There’s a lot to choose from but considering the history deficit of today’s schoolchildren, the founders of the Grateful American Book Prize are keen to suggest a few good reads that might go a long way toward reducing it.
“Ugh! History books. How boring.” Not so says David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Prize. “There are a wide variety of page-turners out there that tell fascinating, factual stories about America’s past. They are not history texts; they are novels and biographies, many of which your kids will find hard to put down. The thing about the genre is that whether they are non-fiction or fiction, they are good reads based on fact. It’s the whole point of the Grateful American Book Prize to encourage authors to write such knowledgeable works in ways that make youngsters want to read them.
Smith notes that this year’s recently issued ‘Nation’s Report Card’ from the Department of Education reports that young learners are retaining little about the history of the U.S. It seems that the emphasis in the classroom is on Math and Science and that history has been forced to take a back seat, he says.
Dr. Bruce Cole, the former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, co-founded the Prize with Smith. He says America has become “a country of historical amnesiacs” and the surveys and statistics bear this out, as shown by the National Report Card.
In fact, the 2015 latest National Assessment of Educational Progress report tested approximately 29,000 eighth graders and found that only 18 percent were proficient in history. Just 23 percent of them showed skills in civics.
In other words, kids today are hard pressed to describe key historical documents such as the Bill of Rights or to identify important historical figures, including our Founding Fathers. Many don’t know the roles George Washington, Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson played in the founding of America.
“That’s why we’ve put together a list of books that are bound to change and, more important, stimulate the minds of many early learners. They probably will find these stories so interesting that they won’t even know they are learning how to be good citizens who will enthusiastically participate in the democratic process as they grow older,” Smith said.
Here’s the list of book suggestions by the Grateful American Book Prize:
The Story of my Life, by Helen Keller
Night, by Elie Wiesel
Paul Revere and the World he Lived In, by Esther Forbes
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
Will Poole’s Island, by Tim Weed (one of our submissions)
Silver for General Washington, A Story of Valley Forge, by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhugh
Number The Stars, by Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle