As mentioned in a previous post (see Preparing Kids for an Epic Family Trip), it’s important that kids get an opportunity to prepare for a trip in the same way that adults get to.
Now, if you’re planning to visit some U.S. Civil War sites with your kids, I’m going to assume that you are a bit of a geek and have done a fair amount of research about the Civil War yourself. The resources are endless for adults interested in this period of American History.
There are also a great number of Civil War resources for kids.
My son has been interested (read: OBSESSED) with the Civil War since he was three years old. Because of his intense interest in the subject I have gone far and wide to find resources that are appropriate for his understanding. The links below will take you to Amazon.com for further information. **PLEASE pre-view each of the resources below before giving to your children to make sure it is appropriate for your child’s understanding.**
Lincoln: The Gateway
The “gateway” for my son’s Civil War obsession was learning about Abraham Lincoln as part of a Presidents’ Day lesson in preschool. Abe Lincoln is quite a fascinating character and learning about him offered my son a chance to learn about that time in history.
To foster his interest, we made a trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL.
We also made frequent trips to the library to pick up books about President Abe. Some of the Abraham Lincoln books that stand out to me are:
- I Am Abraham Lincoln (part of the Ordinary People Change the World series)
- Lincoln and Grace: Why Abraham Lincoln Grew a Beard
- Looking at Lincoln
- Abe Lincoln’s Dream
There was also a great video we watched ad nauseum called:
- Disney’s The American Presidents: Civil War and Reconstruction & the Development of the Industrial U.S.
Slavery and Race
As my son’s understanding of the Civil War era grew more sophisticated, we moved on to books about the Civil War itself and the issues involved. As we all know, one particularly heavy subject that is difficult to discuss with children is slavery and the implications of race in today’s society.
As we all know, one particularly heavy subject that is difficult to discuss with children is slavery and the implications of race in today’s society.
One book we checked out again and again that addresses this difficult topic was An Apple for Harriet Tubman, which tells the story of Ms. Tubman’s childhood experience as a slave on a plantation. Another favorite book of ours on the subject was From Slave to Soldier. Although these books take on a weighty topic, they are written to take into account the tender nature of the subject and the unique sensibilities of children.
More books that fueled my son’s interest in the Civil War were:
- DK Eyewitness Books: Civil War
- Shots Fired at Fort Sumter: Civil War Breaks Out (part of the Headlines from History series)
- The Battle of Gettysburg: The Civil War’s Biggest Battle (also from the Headlines from History series)
- Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War
- The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale
- B is for Battlecry: A Civil War Alphabet
- You Wouldn’t Want to be a Civil War Soldier
- Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs. the Virginia
- What Was the Battle of Gettysburg?
- The Civil War in Color: A Photographic Reenactment of the War between the States
- The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
Coloring Books and Photography
Coloring books have also been extremely important in my children’s understanding of the Civil War. Here are the ones we found:
- Story of the Civil War Coloring Book
- From Antietam to Gettysburg: A Civil War Coloring Book
- A Soldier’s Life in the Civil War
- Famous Women of the Civil War
We then expanded our interests to learn about advances in photography in the late 1800s by reading about Mathew Brady and other Civil War photographers in books like Civil War Witness.
Documentaries and Movies
There are innumerable documentaries that my children found fascinating. One was about a submarine that was used in the Civil War called Raising the Hunley.
My son then started getting interested in the individual battles themselves. At this point, his reading skills were lagging behind his unbounded curiosity (and I didn’t want to spend all day reading Civil War books to him), so we went the video documentary and historical movie route. Here are some great video resources:
- Greatest Battles of the Civil War (Documentary)
- Civil War 360 (Documentary)
- Secrets of the Civil War (Documentary)
- The Field of Lost Shoes (Movie)
- Gettysburg (Movie)
- Gods and Generals (Movie)
- Lincoln (Movie)
Girls and Civil War
Little girls often get left out of the Civil War discussion. That’s unfortunate because it’s such an important time in history. Once, when we were at a Civil War reenactment, one of the “soldiers” was inviting my son to join the battle once he turned 16. He then turned to my daughter to tell her that she could also be involved by bringing water to the “soldiers” when she was old enough. I had to remind both him and my daughter that women did play a very important role in the war by dressing as men and fighting in battles, and serving as doctors, nurses, and spies.
Don’t leave little girls out of the Civil War discussion!
Here are some resources that my daughter enjoyed (some are mentioned above):
- An Apple for Harriet Tubman
- Lincoln and Grace: Why Abraham Lincoln Grew a Beard
- Famous Women of the Civil War Coloring Book
- Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War Hero
- Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero
- Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to “Little Women”
- Civil War on Sunday (part of the Magic Treehouse series)
Play and Understanding
A major part of a child’s understanding about the world occurs through play.
Last but not least, we have to remember that kids are kids and a major part of their understanding about the world occurs through play. At any moment, in my house, you are exposed to the danger of stepping on a plastic Civil War soldier (those little suckers hurt).
Teaching Kids about the Civil War
Teaching children about the Civil War is in no way glorifying war or violence.
Teaching children about the Civil War is in no way glorifying war or violence. Rather, it is educating them about the history of our nation. It’s so interesting that many of the issues that divided the country back then still resonate today. Having an understanding of where we come from helps us and our children understand where we are today, and what the possibilities are for the future. And seeing historical sites in person makes history real and tangible in ways that books and movies can’t.
I am looking forward to blogging more about our trip to Gettysburg!