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Understanding American History Through Children's Literature: Instructional Units and Activities for Grades K-8

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Abstract

Students connect with Americans of the past through quality works of fiction, nonfiction, biography, folktale, and legend. American history ceases to be remote and unfamiliar and becomes the story of real individuals--colonists, pioneers, Native Americans, immigrants--with diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This book is an excellent support for a literature-based history or social studies curriculum. This book closely integrates American history and children's literature by combining the best features of an annotated bibliography of children's historical literature with the best features of a teaching guide.

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The purpose of this paper is a literary examination of the cultural ‘other’ as exemplified by representations of Polish immigrants to the United States. The discussion focuses on examples taken from children’s literature, which, as part of the broader social-educational system, may be a powerful tool shaping young people’s attitudes towards other nationalities. The paper analyzes the thematic content of books about Poles which were published in the United States and focuses more specifically on representations of the first wave of migration from Poland at the turn of the twentieth century. Historical novels and picture books are discussed in terms of representations of class, religion, and markers of Polishness (understood as characteristics that support a person’s national identity claim), such as traditions, folklore, common language, etc. The literary analysis observes the context of contemporary history. Special emphasis is placed on the valuation behind the specific ways chosen to portray the foreign.
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