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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Danger if history is forgotten?

May 9, 2011

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, buses of young adults who went south to challenge a racially segregated interstate bus system which reflected a great deal of what was going on throughout the country. You can learn more about the Freedom Riders from the PBS series "The American Experience."

Many of the freedom riders are now grandparents; their stories continue to be important. Especially for children.

Older children (grades 6 and older) will gain insight into what it was like for the Freedom Riders in Ann Bausum's insightful, moving, and necessarily harsh — but riveting — Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement (National Geographic).

An equally personal look at this era of U.S. history that deals with another part of daily life is Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Little Brown) by Andrea Pinkney. Though it deals with the protest of Woolworth's segregated lunch counter, not transportation, the picture book format and rhythmic language makes a difficult time accessible to younger children, perhaps as young as second grade.

I know history can be tough but if we don't share sensitively revealed stories of times past, there is the real danger of repeating it. And maybe, just maybe, children become empowered when the impact and importance of individuals is recognized.

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"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." — Paul Sweeney