For Primary Readers

A Very Important Day by Maggie Rugg Herold

Beautiful illustrations in watercolor enhance the story of 219 people from 32 different countries who make their way in a snowstorm to downtown New York to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. Information on the process of becoming a citizen is included.

Teaching Strategy: Create a getting-to-know-you bulletin board by cutting a large piece of butcher paper into puzzle shapes, one for each student. Have each kid personalize his or her shape with information, drawings, and photos. Put the puzzle back together on your bulletin board for your bulletin board "Our Classroom of Individual Citizens."

Night Visitors by Ed Young

In this retelling of a Chinese folktale, superb illustrations create a mystical landscape for a dream-like odyssey rewarding a man's protection of tiny creatures.

Teaching Strategy: Explore with your students how they take care of their pets or critters like caterpillars and fireflies. Discuss why they take care of living things. Link caring for living things to being a responsible citizen. Create a class book in which each student dictates or writes the steps for how to care for a pet or critter.

For Primary/Intermediate Readers

The Gettysburg Address illustrated by Michael McCurdy

In this richly illustrated book, the powerful words of Abraham Lincoln seem as relevant and meaningful now as they were in 1863.

Thunder At Gettysburg by Patricia Lee Gauch

An easy read-aloud which provides engaging background information.

Teaching Strategy: Download two different drafts of the Gettysburg address –– in Lincoln's handwriting! Both drafts illustrate process writing in action and reflect clues to this past president's thinking.

She's Wearing A Dead Bird on Her Head! by Kathryn Lasky

An authentic and inspiration account of the birth of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The female activists are wonderful role models.

Teaching Strategy: Along with The Kid's Guide to Service Projects (see below), begin to explore school or community issues.

For Intermediate Readers

The Girl-Son by Anne E. Neuberger

This riveting story is about a courageous mother in turn-of-the-century Korea who fights prejudice and tradition to educate her daughter Induk. Disguised as a boy to gain entry to school, Induk boards at a school where she cooks for herself as age eight. Later she goes on to high school and college.

Teaching Strategy: Have students create a storyboard of pictures and words, retelling Induk's story. Include a final panel which asks the students to describe their feelings about Induk.

For Intermediate/Advanced Readers

Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober

Abigail's spirit and soul come to life in this superbly researched, well-written and beautifully illustrated volume. This biography can serve as a prototype for young historians.

Teaching strategy: As you read the book, have students write letters to Abigail revealing their questions, concerns, and feelings. Later, have the students write letters as if they were Abigail.

Frederick Douglass: In His Own Words edited by Milton Meltzer

This magnificent collection of the words and opinions of one of the most renowned black leader of the 18th century acts as a bridge between past and present generations. The book includes bographical profiles and portraits of Douglass's contemporaries.

Teaching Strategy: Create an "Afternoon with Frederick Douglass-Citizen in Any Century" and invite parents. Choose brief quotes from the book for your students to memorize and deliver in their best oratorical style.

You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? by Jean Fritz

This story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffrage campaign prominently features Elizabeth's family life and follows her across the U.S. and through the years.

Teaching Strategy: Create a multi-level timeline: one depicting the suffrage movement, one depicting immigration patterns, one depicting inventions, and one depicting relevant political issues and constitutional amendments.

A World in Our Hands: In Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations written, illustrated, and edited by various children

The world's children created the art and text for this wonderful celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. It educates young readers about the work of the UN and challenges readers to be better global citizens.

Teaching Strategy: Have students collect current events that recount evidence of good citizenship from around the world or have the students identify global problems and come up with plans to begin solving them while simulating a UN General Session.

For Advanced Readers

The Rifle by Gary Paulsen

A splendid rifle crafted with love and skill by a gunsmith in the eighteenth century travels through time and human hands to end up on the wall above a fireplace. A stray spark ignites the aged gunpowder, a boy is killed, and the point is eloquently made –– guns kill people.

Teaching Strategy: Draw an imaginary line across your classroom. Tell your students that this imaginary line is an Opinion Continuum. Designate one end of the continuum for those students who agree with the statement, "Guns kill people" and the other for those students who disagree. Students who feel somewhere in-between the two opinions should stand somewhere along the continuum to indicate their position. Choose students to share their opinions.

For All Readers

The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas of Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis

In an era of service learning and volunteerism, this is an indispensable volume for students and teachers. The quality and breadth of service ideas are remarkable.

Teaching Strategy: Have kids create a special "Giraffe Club" to honor peers who stick their neck out to do a good deed. Keep a roster of members and deeds on the classroom wall.

Children Just Like Me compiled and written by Susan Elizabeth Copsey with Anabel Kindersley

Readers will love this extraordinary look at the lives, inspirations, and cultures of children around the world today. The rich text and vivid photography will captivate readers.

Teaching Strategy: Using the same model as the book, have your students create a page about themselves. Publish your own classroom book or create a dynamite bulletin board.

My Fellow Americans: A Family Album by Alice Provensen

This book provides a fascinating pictorial history of hundreds of Americans who made unique contributions in words and deeds, which continue to have an impact on individual lives in American society. This is a comprehensive reference tool.

Teaching Strategy: Make baseball cards of famous Americans. Create different categories for the cards, such as government, history, education, arts, social welfare, recreation, and so on.


Tarry Linquist, a social studies columnist for Teacher magazine, is a teacher on Mercer Island, Washington, and author of Seeing the Whole Through Social Studies (Heinemann, 1995). She was recognized by the National Council for the Social Studies as National Elementary Teacher of the Year.