Books are a primary source of knowledge for kids’ development, it’s a fact.
Why else would modern civilization place so much emphasis on reading bedtime stories and stocking up on children’s books as our offspring grow up? And how else would the Children’s Literature industry have become such a huge and lucrative one in so many societies if books had no real place in a child’s life? Most kids have brimming full bookcases in their bedrooms and read one, sometimes two books a night, whereas us adults struggle to get through one novel on holiday!
According to Raising Children, a parenting site, “reading and storytelling with your child promotes brain development and imagination, teaches your child about language and emotions, and strengthens your relationship. You don’t always need to read books. Try looking at picture books, singing rhymes and songs, or telling stories from your culture. Babies and young children often enjoy books, songs and stories with good rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Anytime is a good time for a book or story! Try to share at least one book or story each day.”
If you don’t think you are the best person to read to your kids, take them to a reading for children. Photo credit: San José Public Library on VisualHunt
While you might think that the above only applies to lighthearted subjects about unicorns or dinosaurs, you couldn’t be more wrong! Reading meaningful stories, even educational ones exploring world history matters, with their engaging illustrations, can really help your little one along as they take in more than you think.
Don’t expect your 1-year-old to start coming out with words like ’empire’, ‘renaissance’, ‘imperialism’, ‘heritage’, or ‘independence’ anytime soon, but introducing themed picture books can help a toddler or young child grasp some historical concepts as well as the modern world before they start learning about events of the ancient world in the classroom.
So now we know the influence that history books can have on children, not just history textbooks on the curriculum, let’s take a look at some of the best books for teaching historical events to your young historian. Some take them back in time looking at the history of the world as a timeline, whilst others look in depth at famous wars like World War I (the Great War), the Second World War (Hitler), the Cold War, the American Civil War, and even more of them look at presidency across the centuries (Lincoln, Roosevelt).
Here is a selection of books for the youngest readers up to teens.
A Is For Activist
Amazon’s description: “A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. The alliteration, rhyming and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues depicted resonate with their parents’ values of community, equality and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future.”
Look Inside Mummies And Pyramids
Usborne Books: “Young children can peek under the flaps and discover the lives of the Ancient Egyptians, see inside pyramids and discover the gory details of how mummies were made. A lift-the-flap information book for young readers with over 70 flaps to reveal fascinating details and facts about Ancient Egypt. A brilliant book to introduce children to this fascinating historical period.”
Politics for Beginners
Waterstones: “Understanding politics is essential to understanding the world around us. This accessible, colourful guide is an invaluable resource for helping children understand the decisions that shape the world as well as providing a key aid to parents looking for help in answering even the most complicated questions about how politics works. This informative guide covers the key topics, from elections and government to fake news, immigration and human rights. With bright, infographic-style illustrations, contents and index pages for easy reference, and links to specially selected websites with more information.”
Teach your children about politics and the government over the years with the help of books. Image on VisualHunt.
See Inside History of Britain
Rob Lloyd Jones
Google Books: “A lift-the-flap book for older children covering life in Britain from Anglo-Saxon invasions to the 21st Century. With over 60 flaps to lift, this book depicts scenes including an Anglo-Saxon village being attacked by Viking raiders, the dramatic effects of the Industrial Revolution and Britain at war during WWII.”
The Diary of Anne Frank (Abridged for young readers)
WH Smith: “Sensitively edited and with a connecting commentary by editor, Mirjam Pressler, the abridged edition of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank gives younger readers their first introduction to the extraordinary diary of an ordinary girl who has long become a household name. This abridged edition has a short prologue written by the editor, Mirjam Pressler, as well as a connecting commentary. There are beautiful line drawings, family photographs, and an Afterword to explain why the Diary ends so abruptly. This shorter edition is ideal for younger children who want to read Anne’s diary for themselves but are too young to appreciate the teenage issues that Anne faces during her time in hiding.”
Top 50 Kings and Queens
Good Reads: “Top 50 Kings and Queens is packed full of foul facts and loathsome lists all about our ruthless rulers. Filled with new material, this pocket-sized guide to rotten royalty has all the trademark Horrible Histories humour. With full-colour layouts and new illustrations from Martin Brown, it’s perfect for fans of the series and new readers alike.”
Bombs and Blackberries
The Book People: “Written by Julia Donaldson, this book contains a script for a World War II play for children to act out in class or at home. Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019, the story follows the Chivers children as they are sent to the countryside and subsequently back home to Manchester when the threat dies down – but then the air-raid siren starts to go off… Poignant and dramatic, this play will help children explore both historical and literacy topics in an involving and creative setting.”
For more ideas, you could ask your local librarian about their biographies or other collections or take on the role of an explorer yourself and go on the hunt for great websites and books that help kids learn!
With so many technological distractions around us, with television, video games, and mobile phones being just a few brief examples, kids can be hard to convince when it comes to getting them to pick up a book and read it. If you don’t have a bookworm, then it can turn into conflict!
Reading books on important matters to your children from a young age certainly help them to engage with narrative and illustration and encourages them to enjoy reading stories about historical society.
As they get older, allow them to get organized and pick their favourite book and make the effort to read it with them, rather than to them, so that they can really connect with the story. For example, you could ask questions as prompts, like ‘and then what happened?’, ‘what did he/she do?’, ‘he/she said…’.
When reading a story with your little one, make it as dramatic as you can. Even if you have no acting skills, just being enthusiastic can really help to make a book about just about anything come alive and get your child wanting to get in on the adventure too. Try to match your choice of books to their preferences and interests. For instance, if they love a puzzle or adventure then try to find interactive books with flaps or mysteries to uncover. You could even look in the bookshop or online together and let your little one pick out the one that appeals to them the most.
It helps if you act as a role model too. This means dusting down your own bookcase and showing your child that reading is an activity that you enjoy doing too.
Even if life is too hectic for you to sit and read, put one or two books by your bed or next to the bath so that you can convince your kids that this is something you love to do in your spare time, then they may follow in your footsteps. Why not introduce ‘quiet time’, a period of half an hour after nursery or school whereby all gadgets are switched off and all members of the family participate in calm reading or reflection?
Leave your own books lying around the house so that it normalises reading books. Photo credit: Hobbies on a Budget on Visual hunt / CC BY
Finally, although it may seem counter-intuitive, especially if your child has no interest in reading, the more books you buy and put in their bedroom the more likely it is that they will display any will to read.
To help your kids gain perspective on a number of other key areas in History, why not look for books on topics such as colonization, modern history, American History, Geography, slavery, the Prehistoric era, the Middle Ages, the Medieval period, the Fall of the Roman Empire, the American Revolution, the Peloponnesian war, Byzantine times, Ancient China, inventions, genealogy and religion?
If you like the idea of fun learning through books, games and activities, there are some great websites for kids that offer games to play at home.
A history teacher or educator can find some excellent ideas and resources for lesson plans whilst parents and children alike can discover a range of searchable history games. BBC Bitesize, Ducksters, National Geographic Kids are great sites for kids, for example, with quizzes, worksheets, learner games and essay help.
Learn about Egyptian times here.
Discover more about the Romans here.