Reading in Social Studies

 Vast Endless Sea

I'm a big fan of reading in social studies. I realize there are reasons we don't do more of it, but I don't want 'lack of ideas' to be one of them.

At the end of this post is a link to some content-specific lists compiled from teacher suggestions at various workshops and in my own department. I've read most of them along the way, but some descriptions are paraphrased from other sources. I've tried to stick with titles either recommended by multiple teachers or at least recommended somewhat passionately by whoever did the recommending. I've also tried to leave out titles not currently in print, since that would render them rather difficult to use in class.

I'm also looking for your suggestions for other titles, or comments if you've used any of these in class yourself - what you liked, or didn't, thoughts for other teachers considering them, or other titles you'd use instead - and why. Don't do it for me - do it for... *sniff* the children.

Reading Sets You Free

Questions about why and how and when to fit in reading to an already overcrowded schedule deserve more time and wisdom than I'm able to give them here, but that hasn't stopped me from anything else on this site, so...

First - I teach a non-tested subject in a district which has consistently prioritized literacy for over a decade. I have my kids read because I can. I never ever judge another teacher for doing what they think is best for their kids in their classroom, but I will try to make the case for you to consider rethinking the time you're not dedicating to reading.  

OK, I might actually be judging you a little. But I assure you, I'll do my best to hide it. 

Second - In my department, every class uses at least two novels or other 'outside books' (i.e., non-textbooks) per semester. Most of us use three or four. If you can't do that, do one per semester. Different teachers in the department do it different ways - some read to their kids, others have them in small groups, etc. We struggle with the right balance between supporting the reading (previewing vocab, setting the scene, etc.), holding the kids accountable for reading (quizzes or small projects), and just leaving them alone to READ without always thinking of it as one more requirement to check off the list.

But we all read. Regularly. 

Connected KidThird - Reading supports content. 'Going deep' on a few key moments, issues, or individuals provides an 'anchor' in students historical understanding. It makes knowledge from before, during, and after that anchor 'stickier' - easier to understand, easier to remember. 

Fourth - Reading is good for them. It's good for them long-term for a dozen reasons you know as well as I do. It's good for them short-term because it helps them learn to focus and think in ways disrupted by modern conveniences and technology. I'm not anti-tech by any means, but our darlings need more practice than ever before committing to one linear task at a time. So do many of us.

Fifth - Reading has a chance of being enjoyable. I don't want my kids to leave my class hating history for all the reasons many of my peers did years ago. History is so neato keen awesome swell strange, don't you think? Novels increase the odds they'll get a taste of that. Do you really think their test scores will be higher if they hate EVERYTHING they're supposed to know, but in more detail?

Speaking of which...

Sixth - Reading increases test scores. I know, I know - we're trying to pretend to be above such things. But how much of YOUR state test is reading comprehension? Even if it's not, how many of your kids are missing stuff they shouldn't miss because they can't or won't read the entire question, the provided excerpts, or whatever? 

Seventh - Reading is good for them. I know I said this one already, but it merits repeating. I realize every state has different pressures, and every district and building and classroom different challenges, but at some point we all signed up for this gig to help kids, right? I want to make it to retirement without getting in trouble as much as anyone, but if we're not pushing for what's best for our kids while we're here, maybe we should bail now and go sell shoes or something where we'll do less damage. 

There's a discussion worth having about how to come up with books, etc. Feel free to email me if you'd like some ideas, but chances are you or those around you have a half-dozen things you could try if you decide it's important to you. There are usually ways. That being said, I'm always happy to discuss -

Oh - I almost forgot... THE CURRENT LIST!  

Snow Reading

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