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Monday Mapping: Supplemental Books for High School History

Taking a look at so many resources for the Social Studies classroom, it appears as though reading is coming OUT of the curriculum.  This saddens me greatly, leading to this quick post on GREAT BOOKS to assign in the High School History class to supplement the content and lessons taught throughout the year.  

Suggestions for supplemental books for teaching high school history
© Michaeljung | - College Students Reading Photo
And keep in mind, books do not need to be read all at once, completely, or as an absolute in-class activity.  Be creative in your selection of readings and in your assignment of them, and maybe you will spark an interest in reading historical fiction for your students that wasn't there before!

To get started, books by James Loewen can set the stage for your history course.  His books bring to light the misinformation that is often taught in the classroom through textbooks, and can spark great discussion on the importance of verifying, or at least questioning, everything we learn about our nation's and our world's history.

  1. Anything James A. Michener.  Each of his books take you on a visual journey into the lands and people of a region.  Have students read to compare his descriptions with those of other informational reading sources.
U.S. History
  1. Triangle: The Fire That Changes America by David von Drehle is a long read, but a good one that provides great detail in the union movement and labor issues surrounding and leading to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  The gripping images presented during and after the fire will draw the attention of any reader.
  2. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien provides an interesting perspective on Vietnam and the plight of the soldiers who fought the war that was not a war!
  3. Children's books can be a great tool to set the stage for lessons in the high school classroom.  Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki is a great discussion started for teaching Japanese Internment and the emotional hardships of the camps during WWII.  
  4. Teaching about slavery can be a topic that creates tension in the secondary classroom, but Letters From a Slave Girl by Mary Lyons helps students better understand the time and the reality of slavery in American history.
  5. Willa Cather's books provide varying tales from the Old West, the Age of Immigration, and the lives of average Americans from the 17-1800s.
World History
  1. One of my favorite reads in my classroom is Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya.   While this is a children's book, it is a very emotional account of WWII and the fear during the war from the Japanese perspective.
  2. When teaching the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens' stories help students see and feel the grit and grime of the lives lived by ordinary people in an extraordinary time.
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini shares the tales of life in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and under the early rise of the Taliban, helping students to see the impact on civilian life.  Khaled Hosseini's follow up books are just as fascinating and valuable for the classroom.
  1. Night by Elie Wiesel is the foundational read for studying the Holocaust.  It steps the reader through the Jewish faith, the formation of the ghettos, life in Auschwitz, and liberation.  
  2. Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller opens up great discussion on the different perspectives on guilt and life after the Holocaust. 
Of course, there are many other great titles that could enhance your student's knowledge of history or draw their attention to the tales of the past.  The important thing about reading historical fiction in the classroom is not what your students are reading, but that your students are reading!

Happy Teaching!