Saturday, February 11, 2017
February 11-12, 2017: Crowd-sourced Kids’ Histories
[February 7th marks the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of America’s most famous writers and a cultural voice who provided entry points into American history for many many young readers (and then TV viewers). So this week I’ve AmericanStudied a handful of texts and contexts of histories for kids, leading up to this crowd-sourced post on where and how fellow AmericanStudier got their childhood history—add your thougths in comments, please!]
Responding to the American Girl post, Irene Martyniuk writes, “I have much to say about American Girl dolls, in large part because of their role in my nieces’ lives, but also my own. I’ve been to the Chicago main store (it is now much smaller) and the NYC main store, and the Boston and Columbus stores. I’ve seen theater productions at the first two and had meals there. And I’ve financed or helped to finance their place in my nieces’ lives. I don’t want to reveal their stories—their dolls and their lives are their own—but I can say that every penny and every experience has been worth it. I’m willing to admit that perhaps I’ve simply drunk the kool-aid, but to my mind, both of my nieces are strong, independent people—voracious readers who appreciate their dolls on multiple levels. The message of AG—that every girl is beautiful, powerful, and in control of her own destiny may seem to be contradicted by the marketing strategies (dress-like-me outfits, etc), but it works. I’ve seen it. It works.
I frequently ask my students about their AG dolls. I cannot say every student exudes the AG mantras, but it is remarkable in much students remember about their dolls and think about their stories. They not only learn about history but they also see many historical moments through the eyes of young girls—an approach which they may not get in school.
I’m not naïve—I realize that AG and Mattel are all about the bottom line. They are clever in the their marketing—retiring certain girls and their items, creating on-line flash sales alongside different, story-only flash sales, introducing a girl of the year every year on New Year’s Day, and making mini AG dolls. The company wants to turn a profit and when the AG line quits providing that, AG will simply disappear. But, as you suggest, the outcomes of this marketing and far larger than simply collecting and playing with dolls.”
On a very, very different note in response to the same post, Catherine Proctor shares this quite funny way to rank the American Girl dolls according to their betchiness level.
Other kids’ history nominees from fellow AmericanStudiers:
Rachel Weeks Bright writes, “Horrible Histories (magazines, books, and videos from CBBC) and the Crash Course US and World History series (YouTube) are huge favorites with my kids.”
Sarah West nominates, “My history buff grandfather, who was a reporter for the Washington Star and in the Marines during WWII. Mr. Kirby's history camps. :) My daughter (age 12) is learning a ton about Revolutionary-era history right now by being obsessed with Hamilton.”
Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello shares, “In grad school I helped develop and run architectural history and cultural geography walking tours for K-3 students -- we used the book Make Way for Ducklings to explore Boston Common, Beacon Hill, and the Public Garden with all kinds of ‘I spy’ types of activities and quacking!” She adds, “I offer it here because anyone can do it with their kids and the book-- I did with my son when he was littler-- we still talk about it.”
Heather Urbanski writes, “I actually got my introduction to US Civil War (and years preceding) via the very soap-y & only partly accurate mini-series, North and South (both parts). But it got me interested enough in the period to read more historical sources and do research reports on it for school. And, of course, being a Philly kid, trips to the Liberty Bell (pre-Constitution Center) were required. As was learning about Billy Penn, and standing under his statue on City Hall when they used to let people up there. That was when a bunch of elementary school kids learned they were afraid of heights.”
Katharine Covino-Poutasse shares, “As kids we listened to all kinds of audio books. I remember learning a lot from different tapes about the Civil War and WWII. I suppose, in hindsight, there may--possibly--have been some perks to the 'no tv' rule...”
Janice Alberghene notes, “There's an age 10-14 bio of Claudette Colvin I really like. If you are looking for suitable books for your guys, just go to the American Library Association's website. It's fantastic. My parents hauled us to various historical sites. Check out the Kennedy Library in Boston (after my time); google ‘local historical associations’ and allow the search engine to use your current location; make/bake a dish from the colonial era; when the weather gets better do Boston's Black Heritage Trail or Portsmouth's, search internet for stores with old fashioned penny candy, see if any towns near you will be celebrating bicentennials or tricentennials (I made my acting debut in a school play celebrating the latter); have your kids search for the oldest thing in your house or apt., or for something that has historical significance; construct an hourglass or sundial with them, yada yada yada.” Jan also remembers, “I was an exhibit in a historical field trip for pre-schoolers in BHSU's day care. Reagan was visiting this very conservative campus. The thirty or so of us protesting his visit were relegated to an area some distance from the auditorium where he spoke. Frustrating, but we experienced great comic relief when we saw a group of pre-schoolers with their teacher. Their teachers situated the kids at a
‘safe’ distance from us, but we could still see her point at us and hear her gravely inform the kids that we were protesters.”
Vanessa King writes, “My daughter Anna loves the show, Mysteries at the Museum. Short little segments with audio and visual representations of history. And she watches it with us and can ask us follow-up questions!”
Amy Ryan shares, “You've probably already talked about the Magic Tree House books. I'd rather gouge my eyes out than read another one, but they are so popular. They do introduce historical events and periods in a really accessible way for kids. The author also has some more in-depth study guides to accompany some of the books. They were among the first chapter books both of my kids read.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Any other kids’ histories you’d remember and share?