Children's Literature to Promote Citizenship in the Upper and Middle Grades

Alexa L. Sandmann and John F. Ahern
The acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to be an informed citizen remains a primary concern of elementary and middle school teachers. This article complements our Sept/Oct. 1997 article in Social Studies and the Young Learner, and focuses on using an integrated approach to furthering both literacy and social studies goals. Possibilities for emphasizing NCSS Curriculum Standard 0 Civic Ideals and Practices are addressed in the following annotations of literature, with accompanying performance expectations and suggested activities.1

Annotated Bibliography with Activities

A Fence Away from Freedom
E. Levin
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995
Performance Expectations: a, b, e, f, h, i
This nonfiction text provides an extensive picture of one of the least acknowledged events in American history, the incarceration of more than 110,000 Americans whose crime it was to be of Japanese ancestry. Levin begins the book with the years before Pearl Harbor, followed by the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the evacuation orders. The majority of the book details the effects of the evacuation on those forced into the camps and special populations among them-homeless children, Japanese Peruvians, and Nisei soldiers. Understanding this era in history necessitates discussion of "ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic" so that students understand why the U.S. government needed to officially apologize to Japanese Americans.

1.Yoshiko Uchida wrote two novels based on her own experiences in Topaz, one of the prison camps. Read Journey to Topaz (Creative Arts, 1985) or Coming Home (Atheneum, 1978) to more fully understand what it was like being a child in the camps.
2.In tribute to those Japanese Americans who willingly went to war because they believed in their country-despite their country's treatment of them-plan a Day of Remembrance. Write speeches or poems, design posters or banners, and find appropriate music and food to make it a truly special day of remembering.
3.Review the Bill of Rights. How were the Japanese Americans' legal rights abridged? Write a "legal brief" explaining these discrepancies.

K. Mochizuki
Illustrated by Dom Lee
New York: Lee & Low Books, 1995
Performance Expectations: a, b, e, f, h
In this powerful picture book, Mochizuki helps his reader define "hero" and the actions which make a hero. Donnie, of Japanese ancestry, always has to be the "enemy" when he and his friends play war because he looks "like them." Donnie would rather play football, but since his friends want to play war, it is either that or no one to play with at all. His dad and uncle both served in the war, but are reluctant to "prove" to Donnie's friends their roles in it; they believe the boys should be playing something else besides war. Still, the day the friends push too hard, Donnie's dad and uncle come to the rescue. They pick Donnie up wearing their numerous medals, his uncle in full military dress and officer's cap. When Uncle Yosh throws Donnie a pass, all the boys head off to play football.

1.Donnie's dad says that "real heroes don't brag...they just do what they are supposed to do." Do you agree? Decide on your own definition of a hero and write a description of someone you know who fits your ideas.
2.Read Baseball Saved Us, also by Mochizuki and illustrated by Lee (Lee and Low, 1993). Then, read another book like The Children of Topaz (Tunnell and Chilcoat, Holiday House, 1996) to find out other pastimes for the children in the internment camps.
3.The Author's Note at the beginning of the book briefly describes the all-Japanese American Army regiment that fought in Europe. Write a short report on how this regiment was formed and about their achievements as a military unit.

The Rifle
G. Paulsen
San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995
Performance Expectations: a, b, c, e, g, i, j
In this powerful short novel, "with deadly accuracy" (the book jacket proclaims), "Gary Paulsen takes aim at the notion that 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people.'" In 1768, gunsmith Cornish McManus creates a masterpiece, a "sweet" rifle, which he eventually sells to another man, John Byam, who also treasures it. From generation to generation the gun changes hands until one day it is placed above a fireplace . . . and discharges. More than other texts, perhaps, the discussion of civic rights and responsibilities that may ensue from reading this novel may need to be prompted, but the resulting dialogue will most probably be explosive.

1.Find out the current status of gun control laws at the federal level and where you live. Research the positions of gun control advocates (e.g., Handgun Control) and those who oppose gun control (e.g., National Rifle Association). Decide whether you are in favor of the current laws or whether you think they should be changed. Write an editorial stating your opinion.
2.As you read Rifle, keep a list of the uses for the rifle by each owner. Then, create a timeline, listing each use below each date. Finally, write a short paper noting any patterns of use you discover.
3.Read one of the many other novels by Gary Paulsen that involve guns or weapons: Tracker, Hatchet, The River, or The Haymeadow. What attitude(s) toward the possession or use of guns do you discover in this novel?

The Secret of Sarah Revere
A. Rinaldi
San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995
Performance Expectations: a, b
Thirteen-year-old Sarah ponders one question throughout this historical novel: "What matters? The truth? Or what people think?" Set in pre-Revolutionary War days, Sarah is surrounded by patriots. She is constantly forced to confront the issues of the day, all revolving around questions of individual human dignity, liberty, justice, equality, and the rule of law. She knows that her father and his best friend believe in this "new order," and yet she worries for their safety as events escalate.

1.Read aloud "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, perhaps the illustrated version by Ted Rand (Dutton, 1990). After reading both the novel and the poem, decide how "historically accurate" you believe the poem is, and make an oral presentation to the class.
2.Imagine you attended a meeting of the Long Room Club with Revere and Warren. If they had written down their agenda, what issues do you think would have been listed on it? List these-and then recreate the conversation the sixteen members might have had, noting their positions on these various issues.
3.Read other historical novels by Ann Rinaldi that deal with the same time period: The Fifth of March: The Story of the Boston Massacre (1993), A Ride into Morning: The Story of Tempe Wicke (1991), Finishing Becca: The Story of Benedict Arnold and Peggy Shippen (1994), and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons (1996), all published by Harcourt Brace in San Diego.

Under the Blood-Red Sun
G. Salisbury
New York: Scholastic, 1995
Performance Expectations: a, b, d, e, j
Set in Hawaii, this historical novel provides a glimpse into the treatment of Japanese Americans on the islands versus their treatment on the mainland. In this confusing time, Tomi has great difficulty understanding where his loyalty should be. Should he side with his grandfather, who is having a hard time reconciling the attack on Pearl Harbor with the values of his homeland? Should he resent his country for incarcerating his father? How can he best help his mother, and still discover what he believes?

1.At time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, about 150,000 persons of Japanese ancestry lived in Hawaii-more than were interred on the mainland. The Hawaiians, those closest to feeling the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who would seemingly feel most threatened in the future, were nevertheless the most reasonable in addressing concerns over ancestry in the face of war. Read Pearl Harbor Child by Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson (Arizona Memorial Museum Association, 1993). Find out more about how Japanese Americans in Hawaii were treated during World War II and write a short report.
2.Read Graham Salisbury's earlier book, Blue Skin of the Sea (Dell, 1992). Choose one of the eleven stories and retell it to the class. Afterwards, explain why you chose that particular story and what you learned about Hawaiian culture as you read it. Can you tell anything about civic practices from the story you read?

Cat Running
Z. K. Snyder
New York: Dell Yearling, 1996
Performance objectives: a, b, e, f, g
Catherine, "Cat" Kinsey is the fastest runner in Brownwood School-until Zane Perkins, another sixth grader and an "Okie," shows up. Because of her father's religious beliefs, Cat isn't permitted to wear slacks-even on race day-and so she decides not to run at all. But that doesn't mean she never races with Zane. In fact, one afternoon they run from Okietown to Cat's house, where they call the doctor to ask him to see Zane's little sister, Samantha (Sammy); if they hadn't, she would have died. Despite her family's and the town's warning to stay away from "those people," Cat comes to know Sammy through sharing her secret hideaway in the canyon, and to know her brothers through school. In a story set in a small town in California during the Depression, Snyder presents a heartwarming story of one girl's compassion and civic virtue.
1.What did you learn about the Depression from this book? Prepare a short newscast about its effects on the people in Cat's town, including Okietown.
2.Find out more about "Okies." Write a reader's theater production, sharing the "voices" of "Okies," letting each of them tell their story of what it was like to travel around the country in order to survive during these challenging years.

A. Schroeder
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
New York: Dial, 1996
1997 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
Performance Objectives: a, b, f, h, j
This is a biography of the early life of Harriet Tubman. Its appeal comes from its focus on the frustration of eight-year-old Harriet, who is not yet old enough to assume what becomes her destiny-leading the slaves to freedom.

1."If your head is in the lion's mouth, it's best to pat him a little. Your head's in his mouth, Minty, but you sure ain't doin' any pattin'. You're just fixin' to get your head bit off." Decide where you stand on that piece of advice. Then, with your teacher's permission, read the book aloud to your class, and lead the followng activity. Ask your classmates where they stand on the statement giving advice. Do they agree or disagree or are they undecided. Pair off classmates with different responses to discuss whether the advice is good or bad for people who belong to minorities or who have little power. Then hold a whole class discussion of the issue.
2.Jerry Pinkney has received many awards for his drawings. Study his pictures carefully. Using his dramatic style, attempt to illustrate one of the paragraphs in the "Author's Note."
3.After reading the story and recognizing how long the American people delayed in ending slavery, choose an issue in our current political life where citizens do not appear to be fulfilling their responsibilities. Try to write a story that would make people confront their inactivity.

Big Annie of Calumet, A True Story of the Industrial Revolution
J. Stanley
New York: Crown Publishers, 1996
Performance Expectations: a, b, e, f, g, h, j
Although the author's liberal bias is hardly disguised, this story of a woman who achieves great visibility in a turn of the century miner's strike does appeal to students who identify with those who struggle against the powerful. The book provides insights into the realities of the management-labor struggles before the New Deal. The afterward about the heroine's personal life will make this book appealing to children who live in a matriarchal situation.

1.We cannot chose our parents; discuss whether or not, if you lived in the community described in this book and your father was a miner, you would want Annie as a mother. Find a classmate with the opposite opinion and prepare a debate for the class.
2.What makes a citizen like Annie take action? She obviously influenced public policy, but her community success came at a great personal cost. Write down what influences might help someone acquire the strength to take action for the "greater good."
3.Review the decisions that Annie and the leaders used to influence the larger community. Which behaviors or activities do you think were the most effective? List these on the left side of the page. On the right half of the page, comment on whether you think they would be effective today.
4.This book was written by someone who is quite sympathetic to Annie. Write a book review from the perspective of the owners of the Calumet. This review would likely be critical of the author and his perspective.

The Children of Topaz
M. O. Tunnell and G. W. Chilcoat
New York: Holiday House, 1996
Performance Expectations: a, b
This nonfiction text is primarily a diary kept by a third grade class while interned in the camp in Topaz, Utah. The authors provide a comprehensive, although not overwhelming, introduction to the diary, providing the necessary context for middle graders to understand this "story of a Japanese-American internment camp." Photographs of the diary pages make those children's lives all the more real, as do photographs of the evacuation trains arriving at the camp, classroom lessons, dining halls, and scout meetings.

1.Read Sheila Hamanaka's The Journey (Orchard, 1995). Retell the history she recounts, using her incredible paintings to guide you.
2.Explain how life inside the camp was more democratic than life outside of camp. Write an editorial for the "camp newspaper."

Take a Stand
D. Weizman
Illustrated by Jack Keely
Los Angeles: Price, Stern Sloan, 1996
Performance Expectations: a. b, d, e, f, g, h, j
With a creative format and a variety of illustrations, this work seeks to provide information about the U.S. government. Of particular classroom value is a preamble to a High School Constitution and clear, simple explanations of the Bill of Rights. Much of the trivia noted in the book could be used by a teacher to embellish his or her instruction. Although explanations are brief, the book does contain helpful information including web sites of The White House, The United Nations, and The Library of Congress-which includes a section where you can e-mail members of the House of Representatives. For those less technological, it also includes the addresses of the President, Senators, and Representatives.

1.The section titled "How You Can Get Involved" describes a number of "Grass Roots Activities" that are very doable, including recycling, fund raising, and even positive picketing. Choose a civic cause for your community, find others to work with you, and "get involved"-with the knowledge and support of your teacher and parents.
2.Suggestions as to how to write a persuasive letter are given, as well as addresses of key decision makers. Choose a topic related to your community's or our country's well-being, do the necessary research, and write and mail the letter.
3."School Elections" might be the most interesting chapter because it discusses how to win one! With the permission of your teacher, create a "class government," beginning with choosing candidates. Then, read and apply the advice in the sections about winning issues, avoiding stage fright, and giving a speech. Campaign managers may want to read and apply the information for "Mock Elections" including videotaping debates, writing debate questions, and locating background information on issues.

1.National Council for the Social Studies, Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (Washington, DC: Author, 1994).

About the Authors:
Alexa L. Sandmann is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Toledo. She has published in the Journal of Reading, Ohio Middle School Journal, and Masterplots II.
John F. Ahern is a professor in the College of Education at the University of Toledo. He has published in
The Social Studies, Social Studies and the Young Learner, and OCSS Review.