Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: I Pledge Allegiance

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Introduction and Summary

I Pledge Allegiance by June Swanson with illustrations by Rick Hanson is a fantastic book that teaches the history of the Pledge of Allegiance since it was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892.  School children actually played a part in why the Pledge of Allegiance was written.  To celebrate the 400 year anniversary of Columbus discovering America, Francis Bellamy and James Upham (two men from the children’s magazine The Youth’s Companion) requested that American children collect flags to be raised in their classrooms to celebrate what would become Columbus Day.  Together, these children would say something to honor the flag.  That is why Bellamy wrote the very first pledge.  The original version was “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands–one nation indivisible–with liberty and justice for all.” (p.14)  The book then defines the words allegiance, Republic, nation, indivisible, liberty and justice so that all school children would know what the pledge meant.  The book goes on to talk about how the United States was changing such as, states that were being added, technological advances like the automobile and the Wright Brothers historical flight, and the wars that we fought.  As the nation changed, so did the pledge adding new phrases such as, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” and “one nation under God” which was added due to Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address. (p.36)  In 1923 it was decided that every one who said the pledge should put their right hand over their hearts. (p.29)  Though many children say it today in our schools, the book points out that no one can force anyone to say it.

Curriculum Connections

This book tells about how school children were a part of the history of what is now a traditional practice that honors and fosters patriotism in the United States. (VA SOL 1.11)  It also provides the history of the pledge since it’s inception in 1892. (VA SOL 1.11 b)  Children will also learn about historical events that happened in the United States, and how Abraham Lincoln had a direct affect on the Pledge of Allegiance. (VA SOL 2.11)

Additional Resources

The Pledge of Allegiance in Schools is a website that lists famous court cases that have involved the Pledge of Allegiance and also discusses the religious implications because of the term “under God.”

Historic Documents is a website that not only gives a brief history of the Pledge of Allegiance, but also lists several other historical documents in United States History such as, The aforementioned Gettysburg Address, Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, etc.

USA Flag Site is a website that gives a history of the American flag.  Also contains images of the bald eagle and the Statue of Liberty.

Flag Picture Gallery is a website that shows the many different versions of the American flag.

General Information

Book: I Pledge Allegiance
Author: June Swanson (website link not available)
Illustrator:
Rick Hanson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 40
Grade Range: 2nd-4th
ISBN: 0-87614-393-1