Archive for the 'civics' Category

Learning about Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made history by simply and courageously refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. During a time of public, educational, and social segregation, Rosa Parks was one of many who paved the way for equal freedoms and rights in our country today. The Civil rights movement helped to bring change, creating laws that made sure that all citizens had the same rights no matter their race. (United States History II9.a) By reading about her accomplishments, children can understand that just one person can make a big change.

Listed below are some books based on Rosa Parks that illustrate her life and accomplishments.


Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Illustrated by Bryan Collier

At home with her family, Rosa Parks gets ready to start her day. She doesn’t know yet that the choices she will make will unleash a chain of events that spark a boycott and fuel a movement. After working all day, sewing Sunday suits and blouses, Rosa heads home. She finds a place to sit, but not before long, she is being yelled at by the bus driver to move but Rosa refuses to move.

Excerpt: “She thought about her mother and her grandmother and knew they would want her to be strong. She had not sought this moment but was ready for it. When a policeman bent down to ask her: Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people joined in her. Rosa Parks said no.”

Seeing what has just happened inspires people to act and not before long, a great leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. is standing before the masses gathering people to protest peacefully.

The illustrations colorful, created with a variety of materials and beautiful to look at.

This Caldecott Honor book.


Back of The Bus by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Riding in the back of the bus with his Mama, a little boy plays with his marble. When the marble slips away, it is Rosa Parks who rolls it back to him. She is smiling and sitting towards the front of the bus. As the bus gets crowded, it comes to a stop, and he overhears some yelling. His mama hushes him. He can hear the bus driver threaten to call the police. Sitting there waiting, he plays with his marble. His mama scolds him to put it away, so he hides it in his pocket. He gets the feeling that something is wrong. The little boy knows Rosa Parks doesn’t belong there but she refuses to move. As the police take Rosa Parks away, everyone is watching out the window…..

This story is written from a little boy’s perspective. This unique point of view can help children make connections to their own feelings and interpretations. It has colorful illustrations that help set the mood and tone of this book.

BOYCOTT BLUES: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation.

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Dog Tired, the story teller, sings the Boycott Blues.


This story begins with shoes.

This story is all for true.

This story walks. And walks. And walks.

To the blues.

Dog Tired narrates Rosa Park’s story: While she is sitting in the bus, Jim Crow, “with his bony wings”, comes to “peck, peck, peck” but Rosa Parks wont get up. (In this story, Jim Crow becomes a character- a bird that pecks and pecks trying to keep people segregated.) She refuses to move. That night, Martin Luther King Jr. tells the gathered crowds that they will peacefully fight for justice and boycott the buses. From then on people walked, some rode taxis, and rode bikes, but they wouldn’t ride the bus. Not until the Supreme Court got rid of Jim Crow.

The author weaves the blues in and throughout the story.

 IF A BUS COULD TALK: The Story of Rosa Parks.

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks. By Faith Ringgold

Marcie, a young girl, on her way to school, gets on an unusual bus. As she sits down a voice calls out to tell her that seat is reserved! Alarmed, she isn’t sure where the voice is coming from- soon enough- she realizes it is the bus! The bus Tells Marcie about Rosa Park’s life, her family, and her life as a young girl. Rosa grows up, gets married, and works as a seamstress. On her way home after work, she gets on a bus, and when she is asked to get up from her seat, she refuses. She is taken to jail, but her actions have inspired many to boycott the buses. The bus continues to narrate Rosa parks life. The bus pulls up and stops at Rosa Parks Boulevard. Suddenly Rosa Parks gets on the bus! Inside, she greets the riders on the bus and together they celebrate Rosa’s birthday. Marcie finally arrives at school ready to share her story with her class.


A Picture Book of Rosa Parks by David Adler. Illustrated by Robert Casilla

Davis Adler recounts Rosa Parks life and upbringing in this children’s biography. Adler recounts her upbringing, growing up under Jim Crow,  going to a segregated school, and living in a community where the Ku Klux Klan made their presence known. The author recounts her heroic actions and accomplishments.

This is a great book for any young student to use for fact gathering or even a reference for a paper. There are colorful illustrations on every page to help guide students through the text.

Great Resources for Kids

Kids Konnect

A brief summary of Rosa Parks life. Includes links to videos and images.

Stand Up For Your Rights /PBSkids

Learn more about Civil Rights Movement. Explore games, audio interviews, and images.

Martin Luther King Jr

Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. You can find games, coloring pages and other activities.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Explore different biographies, read newspaper articles, explore a time line and read first hand accounts.

Biography Channel

Watch some great videos about Rosa Parks life.

Great Resources for Teachers

Taking A Stand With Rosa Parks Lesson Plan

A lesson designed to help students learn about people who shaped history by reading their biographies and researching the age in which they lived.

Scholastic for Teachers

Resource site with biography and vocabulary words.

Mr. Donn’s Lesson Plans

The stories  are designed for students to read and respond to through discussion. Lesson plan extends and involves writing. This is geared towards older students, but the stories can be read to younger students.

Scholastic for Teachers 

Here you can find list of books, activities, and free printables.

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Emperor’s Birthday Suit


Introduction and Summary

The Emperor’s Birthday Suit, written by Cindy Wheeler and illustrated by R.W. Alley, is a book that takes children along a comical journey of an Emperor that wants a new outfit to wear on his birthday during a parade.  He wants it to be extra special so he interviews tailors from all around.  He finally decides on two tailors that promise him a magic suit.  “A suit that fools couldn’t see!  A suit that only wise people could see! That would indeed be a suit like no other!”  The tailors demanded bags of gold and silver coins along the way so they could get paid before anyone caught on to their trickery.  Once they finished, the Emperor put on the invisible suit.  He did not let anyone know that he did not see it because he was afraid people would think that he was a fool.  The parade began and the Emperor was walking around in his t-shirt and underwear.  A young child screamed out the truth and everyone went looking for the crooked tailors.  They were caught just as they were running out of town.  Their punishment was to make the Emperor a new wardrobe of REAL clothes.

Curriculum Connections

The Emperor’s Birthday Suit is a super resource for teachers to help students understand how people are consumers and producers of goods and services (SOL Economics 1.7)  The tailors provided a good for the Emperor, his new birthday suit.  Another content that this book touches on is the use of money in exchange for goods and services. (SOL Economics 2.8)  The Emperor paid the tailors for their good (his birthday suit) with bags of gold coins.  Lastly, while reading this book, students can see that there are consequences for doing wrong and that they must not cheat others. (SOL Civics K.8, 1.10, and 2.10)

Additional Resources

  • Lesson plan idea where everyone in the class gets a different job and gets paid for it with pretend money
  • Online PowerPoint presentation on economics, specifically teaching goods and services
  • Interactive activity that allows children to identify what or who provides a good or a service.

General Information
Book: The Emperor’s Birthday Suit
Author: Cindy Wheeler
Illustrator: R. W. Alley
Publisher: Random House Inc.
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 48
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0679874240

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Feathers and Fools


Feathers and Fools written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Nicholas Wilton is a story about two different flocks of birds living very close to each other.  The peacocks lived in the beautiful garden and the swans live on the clear blue lake.  One day a foolish peacock told the rest of his flock that it was good that peacocks do not swim or fly like the swans, otherwise they would surely drown and look silly flying around.  The other peacocks listened to his words but did not say another.  Then the foolish peacock opened his mouth again and this time said that he feared the swans.  He felt they had great strength and could run the peacocks out of their garden or force them to swim.  The other peacocks became upset and were very worried about their home and happiness.  The peacocks decided to gather up feathers and sharpen them into arrows so that they could defend themselves against the swans.  The swans heard of their plans and become fearfully.  They too started gathering feathers to make arrows to defend themselves.  Both flocks continued to gather feathers but as they added more feathers they become more and more frightened and anxious.  One day a swan was flying over the peacocks garden with a reed in her beak to make a nest for her eggs, the peacocks saw this and mistook the reed for an arrow and the peacocks rushed down to the lake where the swans where.  The swans saw them coming and got ready to defend themselves. The two flocks fought each other and not one survived.  As the sun began to set two eggs hatched and out stumbled a baby peacock and a baby swan.  They walked over to each other and declared they were the same seeing as they has feathers, two legs, two eyes, and a head.  They decided right there to be friends and went off together unafraid.

Curriculum Connections
Feathers and Fools is written for grades K – 3.  However, the book has violent imagery that really isn’t suitable for younger elementary.  It illustrates a great message for an older audience about unsupported prejudices and rash judgments. For younger grades it would be used to show how friendship sees past small differences.  If the story was told without the violent language, it would be suitable to use to teach students about treating others with respect ( VA SOL K.8c, 1.10a) and also about being kind to others (VA SOL K.8a)

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan focuses on how to be a good citizen.
  • This lesson plan focuses on sharing for lower elementary.
  • This website has several awards and certificates that can be used to promote being a good citizen in the classroom.

Book: Feathers and Fools
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Nicholas Wilton
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 36 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: I Pledge Allegiance



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)
Rick Hanson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 40
Grade Range: 2nd-4th
ISBN: 0-87614-393-1


Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Liberty


Cartoon Nation presents Liberty a book that contains tons of facts and information about the political philosophy concept of liberty. Since liberty identifies people's rights and the ability to act according to one’s own will this book is a good one to use during instruction about civics. The book covers many facets of liberty including its origin in the United States, what it has meant throughout history (specifically focusing on liberty in the United States). There are several chapters with discussions of the development of our government’s understanding of liberty and information about other countries who lack a sense of liberty and the implications these countries and their people face as a result of severe government control (examples presented: Darfur, Sri Lanka, and China). The book concludes with a great section about what America would be like without liberty and that liberty should never be taken for granted. The book encourages the reader as citizens of the United States to make wise and good decisions and act appropriately as thanks to those who fought for our freedom and that acting within reason is an important way of ensuring that as we grow we will continue to be able to make decisions for ourselves.

The book is written by Terry Collins and illustrated by Brian Bascle.

Curriculum Connections

This book can be used in the classroom during talk about citizenship, liberty, freedom, right, civics, or many other topics discussed in elementary social studies instruction. The book could satisfy many VA SOLs but I think this book would be best for grades 3-5 and I felt that is best aligned with VA SOL 3.10 and 3.12 for civics instruction. The book’s content covers all of these strands and many more additional points about liberty and American goverment matters.

The student will recognize why government is necessary in the classroom, school, and community by
a)    explaining the purpose of rules and laws;
b)    explaining that the basic purposes of government are to make laws, carry out laws, and decide if laws have been broken;
c)    explaining that government protects the rights and property of individuals.

3.12    The student will recognize that Americans are a people of diverse ethnic origins, customs, and traditions, who are united by the basic principles of a republican form of government and respect for individual rights and freedoms.

Additional Resources

Great blog for kids all about liberty !

Excellent kid-friendly interactive website about Liberty Kids!

Awesome website published by the White House that has everything to do with being young citizens of the United States of America!

General Information

Book:  Liberty

Author:  Terry Collins

Illustrator:  Brian Bascle

Publisher:  Capstone Press

Publication Date:  2009

Pages:  32

Grade Range:  Grades 3-5

ISBN:  978-1-4296-2340-7

Teaching Civics using Children’s Literature: Created Equal: Women Campaign for the Right to Vote


Introduction and Summary:

Created Equal: Women Campaign for the Right to Vote, written by Ann Rossi, is a highly informative text outlining the women’s rights movement and their journey towards gaining the right to vote.  This resource highlights influential women in history such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony, to name a few.   Rossi describes how events such as the Temperance Movement and the Civil War gave women the opportunity to demonstrate how they could contribute.  They helped with the effort during the War and gained leadership skills.  With these skills, women founded organizations, such as the American Equal Righs Association to fight for women’s right to vote.  This text describes how the 14th and 15th amendments were passed, with women still not given voting rights.  It discusses how some influential women’s rights leaders disagreed if women should continue to wait or to press to gain their rights with the 15th amendment.  This book contains quotes from women’s leaders, as well as from the man who provided the final vote giving women the right to vote, Harry Burn.  This resource provides a wealth of information for students and is well written and easy to read.  At the end of the book there is a glossary of important terms and an index.

Curriculum Connections:

This would be a great resource for a second grade classroom to understand and learn about influential members of the women’s rights movement, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (VA SOL 2.11).  It may be beneficial to read this book to a second grade classroom depending on the children’s reading ability.  It may be read in separate sections due to the amount of information presented.  This text would also be useful as a tool to demonstrate the importance of voting and how citizens can work to achieve change.

Additional Resources:

This link provides a women’s suffrage word search which will help children become familiar with some of the vocabulary from this time in history.

This link provides several activities that classes could do together; to include matching quotes, multiple choice, and unscrambling words.

This link shows the petition that Susan B. Anthony wrote to the US Congress.  This would be interesting for children to see what she actually wrote.

General Information:

Book:   Created Equal: Women Campaign for the Right to Vote (1840-1920)
Author:  Ann Rossi
Illustrator: National Geographic
Publisher: Crossroads America
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 1-40
Grade Range: 3-5
ISBN: 0-7922-8275-2

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Me Too!


Introduction and Summary
Me Too!
, written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer is an adorable book about Little Critter trying do the right thing while learning how to share with his little sister.  He tries to go about each day enjoying the things he loves to do (by himself), but his little sister wants to follow along and do everything with him.  Little Critter is faced with situations where he has to decide if he wants to do what is right by others or if he wants to do what makes him happy.  Little Critter explains, “I went hiking with my friends and my little sister said, “Me too!”  I had to carry her because she got tired.”  Each time he practices self-control and always helps, shares, or is kind to his little sister.  In the end he sees that his kind actions are reciprocated.

Curriculum Connections
Me Too! is a great resource to use to exemplify to young students the characteristics of a good citizen.  It demonstrates traits such as taking turns, sharing, helping others, and practicing self-control (Social Science SOL K.8).  This book also touches on Family Life programs by teaching and modeling courteous behaviors and good manners (Family Life SOL K.2).  It also helps students become aware of the effects that their behaviors have on others as well as how others’ behaviors effect them (Family Life SOL K.3).  Lastly students will develop an awareness of many positive ways that families show respect and appreciation for one another (Family Life SOL K.6).

Additional Resources  

  • Good Citizen Award is a handout that allows students to nominate who they think is a good citizen and the reasons why.
  • Good Citizens In Action is a lesson plan for Kindergarten that teaches about the attributes and actions of a good citizen.
  • Be A Good Citizen With Miss Rumphius is a webquest that explores ways to be a good citizen.

General Information
Book: Me Too!
Author: Mercer Mayer
Illustrator: Mercer Mayer
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 24
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN: 0307119416


Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Eleanor-Quiet No More-The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt


Illustrator Gary Kelley said it well when he said that this book about Eleanor Roosevelt, “In this age of celebrities and politicians in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, [is] not only refreshing but essential”.  This book about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life is not only a biography but a book of life lessons and things Eleanor Roosevelt strongly believed in.  Throughout the story of her life told in this book there are many inspiring quotes from her about life, being a good person, and believing in oneself.  Some examples of quotes throughout the book include “You must do the things we cannot do” (19), “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (34), “I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could” (37), and “We must cherish and honor the word ‘free'” (back cover).  I felt that this book not only talked about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life but had another purpose in helping students to understand how important it is to appreciate freedom and the idea of being a citizen in this country.I also liked that the book had a timeline of important dates in Eleanor’s life for student’s to look at.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used in the classroom during talk of the first world war as well as to show Eleanor Roosevelt’s role in history as a strong woman.  Specifically, this book could be used with SOL USII.5 while students are studying WWI and discussing Franklin Roosevelt.

Additional Resources

  • This website had a lot of good ideas for ways to incorporate Eleanor Roosevelt activities into the classroom, such as drawing pictures of her or findings pictures of her helping people and hanging them up in the classroom to remind students that being a good citizen is important.
  • I felt the activity on this page entitled “Special Activities for Children” could be a great way for older students in elementary school classrooms to write about Eleanor Roosevelt with some friendly competition involved as well. This would encourage them to write well as well as learn more about this important figure.
  • Lastly, students can find out more interesting facts about Eleanor Roosevelt on this facts page.

Book:  Eleanor Roosevelt: Quiet No More.  The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt
Doreen Rappaport
Gary Kelley
Disney Hyperion Books
Publication Date:  
Grade Range:  
Grades 3-5

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The Journey of The One and Only Declaration of Independence


Introduction and Summary
The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence
was written by Judith St. George and was illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.  The book is a historical account of the Declaration of Independence, a powerful document used to commence this nation’s government and more importantly free the colonists from the grasp of England.  The book goes into detail about some of the signers of the document and even the person who had to draft all of the copies of the document.  From this point, the book reveals the true story of the many places this important document was housed over the past 200 plus years.  It goes as far as to describe some of the ways the document was preserved and repaired so that it could be viewed by all, even today.

“On July 4, 1777, the Declaration of Independence was one year old.  So was the United States.  Like any one year old, the nation was toddling on unsteady feet.  The war still hadn’t been won.  But it hadn’t been lost, either.  Philadelphia threw a wingding of a birthday party.  The Declaration didn’t march in the parade…or join the militia in firing a salute…or marvel at the sky-high fireworks.  But the forty-four line, one page parchment was the star of the celebration.  Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!  Now the Declaration could be placed under glass in the Pennsylvania State House for all the world to admire, Right?”

Curriculum Connections
This book discusses one of the most important tools in our nation’s government, the law.  It stresses the importance of this document to secure America’s way of life and the ways it has been defended, protected and preserved for all time.  While the Declaration of Independence is a lesson in civics about the rights and privileges of free people, the book also provides a strong lesson of American history.  One that this books spends a lot of time discussing places and dates with regard to the Declaration of Independence.  It might not fit some of the standards for lesson planning but is a fun and insightful book for students in the third through fifth grades. (VA SOL 3.11 or CE.2)

Additional Resources

Book: The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence
Author: Judith St. George
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 45 pages
Grade Range: 3-5
ISBN: 0-399-23738-0

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


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, 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