Thursday, June 14, 2007

America: A Patriotic Primer

I've had America: A Patriotic Primer since before I went back to school to become a teacher. Since it was published in May 2002, it was still a time when there was much visible patriotism to be seen in public spaces. At the time, I wasn't quite sure what I would end up doing with it (give it as a gift, keep it for any children I may one day have?), but I wanted to help make sure that a book for children that celebrates America would be successful.

America: A Patriotic Primer was authored by Lynne Cheney (yes, the wife of our Vice President) and was wonderfully illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. It is the first of several collaborations on children's books they have published, each of which focuses on positive views of America. It is recommended for children ages 4 to 8. The book jacket quotes Mrs. Cheney: "America's story is a compelling one and it helps us understand how fortunate we are to live in freedom." Also from the book jacket: "Mrs. Cheney is donating the net proceeds from this book to the American Red Cross and to projects that foster appreciation for American history."

Now, on to what this book is: an "ABCs" of American history. It starts with a note from the author, which begins:

"We live in a land of shining cities and natural splendors, a beautiful land made more beautiful still by our commitment to freedom. I wrote this book because I want my grandchildren to understand how blessed we are. I want them to know they are part of a nation whose citizens enjoy liberty and opportunity such as have never been known before. Generations have passed from the earth never dreaming that people could be as fortunate as we Americans are."

While this book would be great to have in a classroom, it may not be conducive to a whole-class "read-aloud". I think this Patriotic Primer would be best shared by an adult with one or two children in order to share the details from each page. For example:

"A is for America, the land that we love.", but it also, within the illustration of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on the 4th of July, includes a quote from the poem by Emma Lazarus ("I lift my lamp beside the golden door!") and part of America, the Beautiful ("O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years; Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!").

"C is for the Constitution that binds us together. The Constitution has been the framework for our government for more than two hundred years." The illustration is framed with the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America - "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure the domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." James Madison is also quoted: "The happy union of these states is a wonder; their constitution a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world." Within the illustration is the display at the National Archives of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, as well as the monuments and memorials of Washington, D.C.

The pages for E and F include important dates and facts relating to our nation's flag, along with directions on how to fold a flag.

"G is for God in whom we trust. Freedom to worship as they chose brought people to America. Freedom to worship as we choose sustains our country today." If you are sharing this book with a class in a public school, I can't help but wonder if this part might get you in trouble...

The Heroes and Ideals pages feature pioneers, firefighters, the U.S. military, police, teachers, elected leaders, doctors and nurses, and astronauts.

Historical figures of note are Jefferson, King, Lincoln and Madison. Our nation's immigrant heritage is honored with the Oath of Citizenship: "I hereby declare, on oath, ... that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America."

"V is for Valor shown by those who've kept us free." Highlighted here are Medal of Honor winners Alvin C. York (WWI) and Audie Murphy (WWII), as well as Molly Pitcher, the men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (the movie Glory...), the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of WWII (Japanese-Americans who fought in Europe), the sailors who won the day at Midway, the Marines of Iwo Jima and those who fought in Vietnam.

"Z is the end of the alphabet, but not of America's story. Strong and free, we will continue to be an inspiration to the world."

The book concludes with "Notes on the Text", with another note from Mrs. Cheney: "I wrote this book so that children could enjoy it by themselves, but I like to think that it will most often be read and discussed by parents and children together. Those who wish to continue the discussion beyond the page devoted to each letter of the alphabet should find the following explanatory material of use."

Examples of the supplementary materials:

  • The portion of Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty
  • Facts about the Constitution of the United States of America
  • Facts about the Declaration of Independence
  • Facts about the Heros depicted in the illumination of the letter "H", such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Sam Houston, Jackie Robinson, and Nathan Hale.
  • Facts about Jefferson, King, Lincoln and Madison
  • The full text of the Oath of Allegiance/Oath of Citizenship
  • The Bill of Rights, in brief

For anyone with children, this would be a wonderful book to add to your library and share with them, to teach them a love and deep respect for our nation and its history.

1 comment:

Miss Beth said...

Nice article MLB! I LIKE Mrs. Cheney, too--looks like another book I'll be getting for my grandkids!