Thinking and Talking About Historical Fiction

By Irene Fountas

When you give your students the opportunity to gather together with you and their peers to share their thinking about books in interactive read aloud or book clubs, they engage in the kind of authentic response they will need to engage in real life.  They have the opportunity to voice their opinions, rethink their ideas and build a deeper understanding of the text than any one reader could gain for himself.  Through conversations with peers, your students learn from negotiating ideas and perspectives and gain new insights.

When you offer them a variety of history texts such as poetry, non-fiction and historical fiction as well as primary and secondary sources related to a topic, you enhance their interest, understanding and critical thinking about history.  To judge the quality of the text, you will need to help them assess the writer’s perspective of information in the text.

Consider having your students compare the information across two or three texts.  For example, think about these texts that deal with World War II and present different perspectives.

  • So Far From the Sea by Eve Bunting
  • Home of the Brave by Allen Say

Here are some wonderful picture books of historical fiction to add to your collection:

  • The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida (1993, Philomel Books)
  • Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say (1993, Houghton Mifflin)
  • Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle (2006, Cinco Puntos Press)
  • Star of Fear, Star of Hope by Jo Hoestlandt (1995, Walker Publishing)
  • The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland (1993, Harcourt)
  • Here are some wonderful historical fiction chapter books for the classroom library:
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2002, Houghton Mifflin)
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (2002, Delacorte Press)
  • Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm (2006, Random House)
  • Victory by Susan Cooper (2006, Random house)

You might also want to create some baskets of series books of historical fiction for your classroom library.

  • American Girl series by various authors
  • Dear America series by various authors
  • Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka
  • On Time’s Wing series by various authors
  • Orphan Train series by Joan Lowery Nixon

You might find the following websites useful in selecting wonderful historical fiction books for interactive read aloud or book discussion with your students.

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