Thursday, June 19, 2014

Historical Fiction+Critical Thinking=Summer Fun

This post is by guest blogger and author Stacie Vaughn Hutton. Stacie wrote Shovelful of Sunshine about coal mining in West Virginia.  Shovelful of Sunshine is well-crafted and has many wonderful teaching points for a perfect mentor text or interactive read aloud. Between the traits of writing, figurative language, and Appalachian history...this is a great book to have on your teaching shelf. 

       I have always had a love/hate relationship with the subject... "Social Studies." Though I love American History! For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination with those who walked this Earth before me.   I have also always had a natural curiosity for other parts of the world. 
       I hate the hybrid, (likely politician created) "Social Studies" -this mish-mash of subjects ultimately  creates deficiencies and a lack of critical thinking among our youth.  Chief among my complaints is that most American students receive only about two years of serious study of American History. With  this disregard for our nation's history, why should we expect our kids to understand other cultures if they do not have a mastery of our own?

       For instance, when American student Amanda Knox was recently re-tried in Italy, one would need an understanding of our Constitution to compare the two and to realize that in the United States you are not tried twice for the same crime. That is what an in depth knowledge of American History can do... make us think critically about our own heritage as we compare it to others.                              

       The good news is that summer is a wonderful time to address deficiencies in the knowledge of American History. When planning a summer vacation it is usually not difficult to include some kind of historical outing even if it's local history.

If an elaborate summer vacation is not possible... look no further than the public library! Stocked with shelves of books, the library has the resources to take kids anywhere. But if your child needs some guidance on inquiry -the how and why about history...look at,  Where was George? The Missing Signatures on the Declaration of Independence.

      It is a fun, intriguing set of stories that I think will make for some fun Fourth of July reading. My hope is that it will lead to more inquiry and then more reading. For it is through reading, asking questions, and then more reading that critical thinking or true education occurs.

Check out these apps on iTunes and Kindle for reading comprehension practice for your child this summer.

By: Stacie Vaughn Hutton

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