When I began homeschooling, I was starstruck by all the classic children's books. I grew up in the public school system with parents who weren't readers themselves. I continued on to college to get a degree in English, mostly because I loved grammar... but of course, soon I found myself reading many classics. So I learned the classic adult books. But I had never been welcomed into the world of classic children's literature. Until I started homeschooling.
I hopped full on the train. Found all the best book lists. Borrowed them all from the library. Bought even more of them. And I started Sophie's first year of homeschool, checking off every single book on the list of classics for kindergarteners.
But I never really stop researching. And as I continued to research, I would see snippets here and there of people pointing out issues with classics. "This book is so good, but you have to edit while you read because it calls Native Americans 'savages.'" Or, "This book talks about Christopher Columbus like he's a hero and doesn't give an accurate portrayal of the way he treated Natives."
I was not educated enough. So I had to read all the comments, click on the links, read the articles. I followed every rabbit trail laid out before me, and soon I found myself in a heap of wreckage. I wouldn't say my history education was very strong, but I certainly thought I knew my stuff. But enough rabbit trails, enough listening, enough reading made me realize that I was given a biased history education. My history was from a white westerner's point of view, and it left out the side of the Native American and people of color.
So I left the classics' train. And I jumped on the enlightenment train. Sometimes it still includes classics. But it's a train that is inclusive and seeks to give a full picture of history. Sometimes the train charges full force ahead, and sometimes it has to stop, refuel, backtrack, and correct its path. But I am fully on this train, committed to giving my children an education that is not white-washed or westernized but rather inclusive, diverse, and honest.
I am constantly learning and constantly updating my shelves, but I wanted to share my favorite books. At the end of this post, I will share my favorite sources. Don't miss that part! I am only relaying information to you that I got from others, whom I'm so thankful for. If we want to include indigenous people and black people in our history curriculum, we must listen to them. Most of my book ideas were a direct result of listening to them and their recommendations.
These are three incredible spines. They are so important. Each book comes in an adult format if you'd like to read those for yourself, but honestly, you could start with these young people versions and learn a shocking amount. All of these focus on different matters and are all important in their own way. If I had to recommend one to start with, though, I'd go with Zinn's.
I'm really big on having a spine for history, and then supplementing with biographies and historical fiction. It's hard to find a history spine for young children that isn't white-washed. Betsy Maestro's books are my favorite I have found, though. The spines mentioned above (Zinn, Dunbar-Ortiz, and Takaki) are better to start around 4th grade, I think, so Maestro's books would be good for before that.
These books are all just so excellent for learning about the Native Americans before contact. For most of us, and for many curriculums today, America starts when the white settlers came. But that's a false narrative. This land has been here for an incredibly long time with people walking it. And those people (Native Americans) are still amongst us today! The top two books are good for a parent/teacher's own education, and the bottom three books are good to use for a curriculum with children.
Picture books are a lovely way to learn about Native Americans - both historical figures as well as legends. Below are some of our favorites. These are a great supplement to a curriculum. Biographies and legends make a curriculum come to life!
It's fun and important to know how people live. We not only are better able to understand the people but also the land we live on, if we live in the Americas. These are some of my favorite books for learning about the types of homes Native Americans lived in. We personally don't live far from mounds, and it's a really neat place to visit.Bobbie Kalman - Native Homes
Bobbie Kalman - Life in a Longhouse Village
Bobbie Kalman - Native Nations of the Western Great Lakes
A few more books about Native American historical figures and legends that we love, and a book to understand that Native people still live amongst us today!
Tehanetorens - Legends of the Iroquois (this is a really fun one!)
Basically anything by Joseph Bruchac is wonderful. He's a good name to know. Both of these books are good ones. Once your children are older, continuing to read biographies and historical fiction is important, but the books will get longer.
Historical fiction is one of our very favorites in our house. Louise Erdrich and Joseph Bruchac are simply the best when it comes to historical fiction about Native Americans. The Birchbark House series is a great series if you're looking for one with a Little House on the Prairie feel but that covers the Native's perspective.
I consider all of these good spines to cover black history. James Haskins is an author I like, and his books are the top four, but he has many more as well. These books all cover a time period or different slave accounts rather than one person.
Doreen Rappaport is an author I really love, and she has some books not pictured that I would also recommend:
There are a lot of great picture books about different movements of black history, from slavery to emancipation to the civil rights movement. Here are some we love.
Picture book biographies are simply one of our favorite!
I truly find that there's nothing like historical fiction to make history come to life! (Thank you Amber from Heritage Mom for so many of these recommendations!)
Don't forget to introduce your children to other voices in other subject areas as well!
Poetry - Consider Phyllis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Joseph Bruchac, Louise Erdrich, and Effie Lee Newsome
Artists - Consider Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Helen Hardin, and Pablita Velarde
Music - Consider Scott Joplin, Elizabeth Cotten, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Duke Ellington, and Robbie Robertson
* Heritage Mom - Amber is simply amazing. As a black mama raising black children, she provides a world of wisdom on giving children a black perspective in history as well as other subjects (composers, artists, fiction, field trips).
* The Parallel Narrative - I've gotten a lot of book ideas from this site. She breaks it down by time period and subject area.
* Living Books of all People Facebook group - If you're on Facebook, be sure to join this group. People are continually posting new books and resources, and the search bar is great when you need to find information on a specific area.
* Oyate - This site has been really informative about Native Americans. They review books and also have a shop with books they recommend broken into different categories.
* American Indians in Children's Literature - So many great reviews on this site!
* Woke Homeschooling - This is a curriculum thoughtfully put together by homeschooling mama Delina Prcye McPhaull.
* A Broken Flute- This is a pricey book. I borrowed a copy from the library, but I will say it's worth every penny should you choose to buy. Doris Seale and her companions go through hundreds of books on Native Americans, reviewing them thoroughly. It gave me a lot of ideas for books to buy but also after reading through it, I began to have a clearer idea of what to look for and what to avoid when looking for books on indigenous people.
I love, Love, LOOOOOVE this!!! I'm literally bubbling over with joy right now. Thank you for taking the time to learn. Thank you for caring and for sharing all of your hard work. Even if you have the books sitting there, it takes a lot of time and thought to put them all out in a coherent post, and you've done an awesome job. And you're welcome for the recommendations. I hope your girls love them as much as mine have. I can't wait to dig into some of the goodies that you've listed.ReplyDelete
You're welcome, Amber. I'm so happy to be sharing this post! I'm also so thankful for all you share and hope many others will click over and enjoy your wealth of wisdom and the gems you share.Delete
Thank you for this extremely necessary and wonderful list!ReplyDelete
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I already commented on your Instagram post, but I have to say it again after looking through the whole list. This list is honestly an answer to my prayers and deep soul searching. Thank you!!ReplyDelete
You’re welcome, Claire! Thank you for your encouraging comment, and I’m so glad it is a help to you! Love knowing fellow people who are on this journey with me.Delete
Hi! This is SUCH an amazing resource. Thank you so much for compiling all of this and sharing! I am working on our school year planning for next year (Kinder and 2nd) and am hoping to include Effie Lee Newsome as one of our poets. I'm having trouble finding her works, and I was wondering if you have any tips for that. She has an amazing book of children's poetry, but it looks like its going to be very hard to find. I'm curious what you've used or might recommend.ReplyDelete
Yes! My sweet friend Amber has generously put it together in an easy format and shared on her blog: https://heritagemom.com/index.php/2020/02/21/african-american-poetry-effie-lee-newsome/Delete
She is the best! Check out the rest of her blog if you haven’t yet- so many helpful resources!
Happy planning! I am planning right now too and it is so fun! :)
Thank you!! Yes, I love Amber's blog! I hadn't seen that post! I am so excited :DDelete
Happy planning to you too! :)
Thank you so much for the resources! I have linked your blog to mine in my resource section for parents! <3 Truly awesome!ReplyDelete
Thank you! I’m so glad you found it helpful!Delete
Do you know if anyone has taken this type of reading suggestions and created a curriculum? I am trying to find curriculum that isn’t whitewashed and I love your suggestions, but it works better for me if it is laid out with what to read.ReplyDelete
Check out Blossom & Root! As far as I know, they have the best complete inclusive history curriculum. Heritage Mom Homeschool and Woke Homeschooling have good curriculum packages for covering Black history.Delete
This is so amazing! Probably one of the biggest helps on my homeschool Pinterest board. This is our first year homeschooling. I didn’t pick a history curriculum for the reasons mentioned. My eyes were opened when I was searching for a curriculum or resources, and I thought about our Asian teen daughter (that we adopted). I thought about the history she’s already leaned. And now I’d be introducing a very narrow minded look at history...America and white Europeans. So I determined I would just read different stories. And I’ve been pinning links to different books, and I was feeling overwhelmed at the research I was going to have to do to accomplish my goal. BUT YOU’VE ALREADY DONE IT!! AND SHARED IT!! So thank you!!!ReplyDelete
Ellisa, I’m so thankful to hear how this posts has helped you! I hope this school year is wonderful for both you and your daughter!Delete
Thank you so much for this post - I've made a huge list of books to check out and shared it with multiple people :)ReplyDelete
So encouraging to hear! Thanks for your comment, Christine!Delete
Thank you so much for this resource! I would love to add a recommendation for books (especially Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins) by my friend Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, a black author. She's written a few black history books that would be a wonderful addition to this post.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Jessica! I love new recommendations!Delete
Thank you SO MUCH for this. I’m trying to plan something for next year. This is so helpful.ReplyDelete
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I'm so incredibly grateful to you for this wonderful creation! As a teacher in training, we're told all the time that we need to use culturally responsive/sustaining practices and an inclusive curriculum, yet I can't find any actual curriculum only articles about how important using that kind of curriculum is. You are the first resource I have found that includes literature and comprehensive history too. My only complaint is that this doesn't help my bibliophile tendencies! Now I must own all the books! Thank you again.
I removed my last post and re-wrote it for clarity.Delete
Hahaha! I understand bibliophile tendencies! I am SO glad to hear that you have found this post to be helpful. This is a continual journey for me, of learning what it means and how to be more inclusive, and I'm so glad to share my journey with others.Delete
I’m so glad I came across this! I am interested in what your thoughts are on the Beautiful Feet curriculum early American history.ReplyDelete
I think Beautiful Feet is doing good work, especially with their new expansion packet that includes more diverse books. It's a great start. I always recommend going beyond if able though- finding resources (books or curriculums or unit studies) written by BIPOC, like my friend Amber at Heritage Mom Blog - to supplement and include even more diverse voices!Delete
This is exactly what I've been looking for. So helpful! Thank you for doing all the work and curating some great books.ReplyDelete
You're welcome! So thankful you've found it helpful.Delete
Hi Alisha, you and Amber are such a gift to us and the community. I have a question - where do you integrate the historical fiction and biographies in? Do you read those for one of the two history lessons each week or use it under your literature readings for the week? At a quick glance of your terms I didn't see the books mentioned. Hopefully I'm making sense. Thanks! I'm new to CM and am starting this year with my 3rd grader and Kinder and just had an awesome consult with Amber and am now in the throws of pulling together a schedule for the firs time!ReplyDelete
Following this answer. Thank you.Delete
Hello Natalie! Typically, the Charlotte Mason method recommends historical fiction as read alouds or independent free reads in the afternoon and evening. We do this some, and even sometimes do audio books as well. But for our family, it also works sometimes to do them in the morning during our lesson time- just a chapter or two in a week from a historical fiction novel that fits our time period. Occasionally with my oldest daughter (now 5th grade), these are often read in our literature time slot.Delete
Biographies we typically always make a part of our morning lessons, and we intermingle them with our spine(s). When a biography fits into what we're reading, we usually take a break from our spine and read it. Now that I have a 5th grader and some of her biographies are longer, we have just begun moving some of these to the afternoon. But we still do quite a few in shorter bios in the morning (picture books and such!) since I have younger children too.
I find that kids connect with and remember biographies better than the spine, so I try to make sure we have a lot of these! My kids also LOVE historical fiction.
You're welcome, Elle!ReplyDelete
Hi Alisha -- This is truly a gift. I was just wondering -- I've been following spines that are more Living Book like...we have tried using the Indigenous History for Young People but it is hard for me to know how to read it out loud. I have a 10yo and 6yo. I am thrilled to see the spines you chose PLUS the Maestro series. We do Ambleside -- but I am trying to create my own curriculum with these history gems added into next year. I'd just love to know how you do the spine books "read aloud" style when they are a little bit more factual. Do you follow a schedule and split it up over a year? Two years? Thank you!ReplyDelete
We cover one century in a year, so I fill books in however they fit into that century… sometimes a spine may span a few years and sometimes we may just use it in one… sometimes we don’t read a whole spine. For instance, I agree that Indigenous History for Young People can read a bit too dry, and Zinn’s is similar. So I use those as more of a guide to determine what I’d like to cover and will just sometimes read parts of chapters from them. I think those books can be read straight through in the middle grades and up, but before that, I would choose shorter sections (maybe to read along with a living picture book on a similar topic) and as a good guide to make sure you’re covering sections of history not typically covered in textbooks.Delete
I’ve scaled back even more as the years have gone on, remembering that if information doesn’t stick with them, then we’ve missed the point. So I really try to use our books in a way that will intrigue them and leave them with lasting knowledge, even if that means we just read 1 page!