Bringing History Home:
Local and Family History Projects for Grades K-6

M. Gail Hickey.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Reviewed by Mary E. Haas


In Bringing History Home, Gail Hickey has synthesized knowledge of social history, child development, and social studies curriculum into a very helpful book for the busy elementary teacher, methods instructor, or workshop presenter. It is as practical and comprehensive a guide for teaching local history at the K-6 levels as I have seen. Such a book could only have been written by someone who is not only a good scholar, but who knows the culture and environment of the public school classroom.

The author has matched a comprehensive definition of social history with important elements and concepts of the elementary social studies curriculum. The family, community, and multicultural themes are important parts of this curriculum, and each is thoroughly discussed and illustrated in the book. The author offers many illustrative lessons for students in the primary, intermediate, and middle grades. The inclusion of classroom teacher experiences at the various grade levels clearly illustrates Bruner’s statement that it is possible to teach all subjects to all ages of students is some legitimate form.

I was delighted to see that the book has not fallen fad to one or two instructional procedures, but suggests a wide range of strategies and teaching resources that should be readily available in all communities. The author’s comprehensive view of social history encourages the use of such often overlooked resources as geographic landmarks and cultural monuments. The description of oral history goes beyond interviews to include family storytelling and folklore. When examining artifacts, students are encouraged to look for their possible social, religious, and ethical meanings as well as their practical economic use within a culture. Women, children, and the wide ethnic diversity of modern America are well represented in the book.

Hickey illustrates how many time-honored instructional strategies can be used to teach social history. An annotated list of children’s trade books is accompanied by examples of instructional procedures that can help children to think historically as they read children’s literature. The author also encourages teachers to expand their range of strategies in new directions, for example, by use of the living history museum that allows children to become fully engaged in a historical scene. An excellent bibliography and set of Internet websites provide additional help to teachers who wish to pursue detailed information on specific subjects, or search for teaching resources beyond their own community.

Bringing History Home excites teachers by illustrating “hands on” and “minds on” learning at its best. I rate this book as two thumbs up, five stars, and five mice.


Mary E. Haas is a professor of educational theory and practice at West Virginia University, Morgantown.