Do you remember history class in school? Do you remember textbooks full of facts and dates with little else to stir the imagination? How much history do you recall from those days? Exactly. Me either.
When we study history, (which has become our favorite subject) we use “living books”---historical fiction, which makes our history come alive. It does this because it places historical times, dates and events within a story that captivates the interest and imagination of the reader. The characters may be fictional, but the historical framework they live and breathe in are not. This further adheres the historical period into their minds---sometimes forever because the story is so appealing.
The favorite story that intrigued us this year was a book my Marie McSwigan called “Snow Treasure”. We had been studying WWII and this book takes place in Norway during the Nazi invasion of that country. Citizens of Riswyk, Norway were trying to save their gold from falling in the hands of the Axis powers and sending it by boat to America for safe keeping. In order to get it down to the boat from that mountainside town, they had to somehow get it down the hill. They did that by hiding the gold on the sleds of their very brave kids as they sled down the hill to a hidden fjord where the vessel was camouflaged and waiting. The children would bury the gold and build a snowman over it so that the adults would know where the gold was. They did this all under the nose of the German army and were not detected. This fiction is based on a true story and very compelling. I am guessing that my children will remember that piece of history for a long time to come.
Part of the joy of teaching my children history from Creation all the way to Desert Storm, is re-learning (and sometimes learning for the first time) along with them the flow of history’s story. History was never focused on in my public school career. And from what I understand it is still a lacking part of public education today.
As children get older, and as they are reminded what fiction means, the dividing line between fact and fiction becomes more and more defined.
My encouragement is to go out and try it. History comes alive with fiction and its much more enjoyable too