Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Big George

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     Most children know that George Washington was the first President of the United States. But can they tell you how he got there? Anne Rockwell’s new book, Big George: How a Shy Boy Became President Washington, takes readers on a journey throughout Washington’s life; from childhood to the battle fields to President. Beautifully illustrated by Matt Phelan, your students will learn not only of Big George’s personal life, but of his contributions to the beginnings of America.

     Instead of beginning the book with what Washington was most known for, Rockwel’s opening page states: “George Washington wasn’t afraid of anything, except making conversation. He was shy.” From there, we learn of George’s early and difficult childhood, his studies, and his brave contributions in battles in fighting for America’s independence. He begins his military career fighting under the English general Edward Braddock, but is eventually elected to General of the American troops against England, for whom he had pledged his allegiance to for his whole life. Students will also learn of his contributions to fight for an independent America, with his signing of the Declaration of Independence, his pleads for help from the French, and his contributions in declaring America an independent state. Only the last page mentions Washington as President. Many students will be surprised to know that the shy George had no interest in being President, but felt he felt it was his duty to do so. Rockwell’s book concludes with this: “As history shows, President George Washington…proved to be as good a leader in peace as in war–and his leadership shaped the nation America was to become.”

Curriculum Connections
This would be a great book to use when beginning a unit on Washington or the American Revolutionary War. It can be introduced in second grade for SOL 2.11, where students identify George Washington in American civics. Additionally, SOL 3.11 focuses on identifying Washington’s contributions to the foundations of our government. Big George may also be used with the United States History SOL USI.6, where students must describe the roles of key individuals such as Washington in the American revolution.

Additional Resources

  • Brandon Marie Miller’s book George Washington for Kids is not only a book with a wealth of kid-friendly information on Washington, but provides directions for 21 activities related to the First President. For example, your students can make a quill pen just like Washington used!
  • This website provides a wealth of lesson plans, activities and kid-friendly articles on Washington.
  • This webquest will challenge your students to learn about some other important people during the American Revolution.

General Information:
Book: Big George
Author: Anne Rockwell
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Publisher: Harcourt
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 2-5
ISBN:0152165835