Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Children's Books about Columbus Day

In comments to the poem about Columbus Day (posted on Oct 9th), anonymous said "There are fewer and fewer students these days who aren't aware of the varied opinions which arise in discussion of Columbus' voyages to the Western Hemisphere."

Do others have similar observations? I think anon's comment may be true with older children, but what about younger ones, in elementary school? Do high school students have to unlearn what they were taught in earlier grades? Or are teachers problematizing the teaching they do with young children?

If you're a teacher of young children, I'd really like to know what you're teaching.

I'm also interested in the children's books you have in your classroom (or library) that are about Columbus. And history texts, too, used in elementary school. Do they glorify Columbus? Is he a heroic figure? Do they say that he "discovered" America?

To get a sense of how to look critically at them, read James Loewen's book THE TRUTH ABOUT COLUMBUS. Published in 1992 by The New Press, it is an analysis of history textbooks used with high school students.


Anonymous said...

Do you have any reccomendations for books about Columbus Day that are more faithful to the Native American Indians? I am a new young adult/childrens librarian and was horrified by our collection when I went searching for books to display on Columbus Day.

Anonymous said...

Although I am not currently teaching this year, I used to tell my third graders the truth about Columbus. I began my demonstration by moving kids around the classroom to smaller spaces and then began pilfering some of their belonging. When they would begin to shout in retalliation, I would tell them that I have every right, for I DISCOVERED these items. After listening to some rebutals, I'd finally ask "How could Columbus discover America if people where already living here on the land?" Stunned, students would join me on the rug in a circle to discuss.

I used REthinking Columbus as my guide, even reading a few exerpts from the ship logs. Of course, we also had to look at what was positive about Columbus' journer...the only thing we could come up with is that he opened the door for many of our ancestors to come over. How sad :(

This has always been a powerful lesson and I can't wait to teach it again when I return to the classroom.

Amy Appell :)

Anonymous said...

I am not a teacher, but I am a parent.
I have always taught my kids that no matter what they learn about Columbus at school the truth is he was lost when he so called "Discovered" America.

Fuse #8 said...

I'd just like to point out that I'm very very fond of "A Coyote Columbus Story" by Thomas King. If you haven't seen this picture book, you might do well to give it a glance.

birthstudent said...

I am a homeschooling parent and we wear black on Columbus day. My oldest is in the second grade only, but I am interested in the suggestions presented here so I can further explore the topic with him next year.

Anonymous said...

Check out a book called Encounter, from the perspective of a Taino child. It's not perfect, but it's an attempt at a Taino perspective.
Also, from Rethinking Schools, get "Rethinking Columbus," a great resource with activities, poems, articles, and bibiliographies.
Go to their website
L. Ayala

Debbie Reese said...

Back on October 23rd, I discussed Thomas King's A COYOTE COLUMBUS STORY, specifically referencing an excellent review essay that points out the flaws in Jane Yolen's ENCOUNTER. The essay is in A BROKEN FLUTE. Here's the URL:

Anonymous said...

I teach 4th grade, and have noticed that lower grade teachers in my district generally continue to teach the "explorers" with zeal. Like Amy, I subscribed to Rethinking Schools and have been using the "Rethinking Columbus" text resource for years. My students respond with melocholy and empathy as they begin to realize the atrocities that befell the Taino and other exixting nations.

I intentionally weave the American Indian perspective throughout the year. In fact, in a recent study of the Great Lakes region in social studies, I shared Tecumseh's speech, "Sleep Not Longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws" to emphasize that many indigenous people resisted the European influx of settlers and traders. The book "Indian Oratory; Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chieftains" offers a facinating collection of speeches to support alternative points of view.

Debbie, do you support this collection? If not, is there another way to access these valuable hsitorical documents?


Anonymous said...

I teach in a small school on the Navajo reservation. I ended up here trying to find the best way to address the "Columbus issue". I do a variation of the second commentor does. Enact a sort of classroom seizing in the name of discovery. I am looking actively for correct info about Jamestown as well.