History Through Children's Literature

sothatsmanborder.jpgThe stories we tell children are also very telling about our history. This blog will present brief examples of these telling moments. Points for consideration of history in children’s literature and facilitate discussion of the issues therein. Children’s books are a very visual medium, but sadly it is overly complicated to get pictures into print publications. Blogs work well for talking about other visual medium, like comics, so why not Children’s Literature.

Two years ago I took Marjee‘s advice to explore the history of children’s books about Marie Curie and Albert Einstein. In the process I came across a whole host of materials of historical interest that just didn’t fit into the project but nonetheless warranted discussion. Inspired by some of my colleagues at the Center for History and New Media‘s blogs I have been looking for a approach and topic for blogging and Marjee and I have been looking for projects to collaborate on. The blog will explore history in children’s books, from that perspective it will focus much more on ‘true stories’ (non-fiction) than on works of fiction. Our particular interest in the history of science will most likely translate into us spending more time on history of science topics. In particular you can expect to see a bit more of Curie and Einstein to begin with.

A bit about us. My name is Trevor Owens, I work as the Technology Evangelist for the Zotero project at the Center for History and New Media. Aside from that I am a graduate student studying American history at George Mason University. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BA in History and the History of Science. My undergraduate thesis explored how children’s books about Albert Einstein and Marie Curie diverged from more authoritative biographies. My other work has focused on the history of school science fairs, children’s books about evolution, and creation/evolution discourse in online communities.

Marjee, works as a Associate Director for PBS TeacherLine, developing, directing, and facilitating professional development for teachers across the United States. Marjee taught high school physics and chemistry, and has studied the history of science education and educational technology. She has previously explored Sputnik’s impact on American science education, online creation science communities, and her work on scientific reasoning in video games has been cited in Science.

Our first experiences with history are crucial, while many of those experiences are impossible to capture children’s books provide a record of many of our first impressions of history. On some level these books represent our first past. Children’s books that make historical assertions and this blog is a attempt to start unraveling those assertions. To start taking a serious look at historical children’s literature. The study of Children’s Literature is in many ways in its infancy, and the study of its history even more so. The short pieces in this blog are intended as a way to help develop a dialog about these books.

Oh, and our views are our own, and in no way reflect the views of our respective organizations etc.
(image from Russell Ray Baker. So That’s Man!. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1949.)

4 Replies to “History Through Children's Literature”

  1. I hope this blog is still active because the project sounds really interesting. I'm at the University of Florida Digital Library Center and one of our digital collections is the Baldwin Library of History Children's Literature: http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/UFDC/?c=juv
    A lot of the materials in it may be useful for your project, and we're constantly adding more. Also, if you find something that we have that's out of copyright would be useful for your project, let me know so I can get it added to our digitization queue (I also check and try to clear copyright as needed).

  2. Hi Laurie,

    I haven't posted for a while but I should be making sometime for the blog in the next few weeks to put out a new post. Thanks for the digitization offer! I have browsed the Baldwin Library's online holdings quite a bit and have found them to be excellent.

    If you are interested I would also invite you to post to this blog as well. It would be really neat to bring together different folks, historians, librarians, and educators interested in the history of children's lit. If your interested I would be happy to set up a login for you and any other folks you know interested in sharing their thoughts and findings in the field.

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