Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: A Very Important Day

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A Very Important Day, written by Maggie Herold and illustrated by Catherine Stock serves as an exceptional introduction to the naturalization process.  Two-hundred nineteen people from thirty-two counties around the world travel to the same courthouse downtown New York to be sworn in as citizens of the United States of America.  It was a very important day.  Family and friends of the individuals waiting to be sworn in fill the building as the judge begins the oath of citizenship.  Upon repeating the oath, the judge declares his congratulations and says to all two-hundred nineteen new citizens, “You are carrying on a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of our country, for almost all Americans have come from somewhere else; may citizenship enrich your lives as your lives enrich this country, welcome, we are glad to have you.”  They all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and some recieved symbols of this great land, small American flags.  It was a very important day.  Now, all can vote, serve on juries, compete for government jobs, and travel freely outside of the United States.

 Curriculum Connections

As a tool in the classroom, this book would work well as students can easily relate to the vivid imagery of other children from other countries playing in the snow, eating pancakes with mom and dad, and racing friends outside.  In this, American children can see that other children, no matter where they come from, are similiar to themselves.  There is only one temporary difference–their home lands.  This can all change through the process of naturalization, which students will learn about throughout the course of this book.  The child from Mexico, the child from Ghana, and the child from Russia, carrying diverse customs from around the globe, are naturalized as they come together to become citizens of this great nation (VA SOL 3.12).   

Additional Resources

A Very Important Day is designed to work hand-in-hand with the actual book, presenting a game for children to play matching citizenship terms to the correct definitions. 

This site, comprised of a unit’s worth of lesson plans and activities, is great for teachers to utilize and refer to when teaching citizenship. 

C is for Citizenship, as part of CongressforKids.com, is an informative tool for children to refer to when learning about civics.  It is subdivided into several kid friendly categories such as becoming a US citizen, how to be a good citizen, etc…   

Book: A Very Important Day
Author: Maggie Herold
Illustrator: Catherine Stock
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: August 14, 1995
Pages: 40
Grade Range: First-Third
ISBN:0-688-130658