Should be remembering dates as you study history

Learn history with children's books

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About the author

Dr. Birgit Ebbert is a freelance author and, as a qualified pedagogue, has been involved in parenting and teacher training for many years. In addition to children's books and thrillers, she writes parenting guides, learning aids, reading stories and books about working creatively with paper.

by Dr. Birgit Ebbert

© 77SG -

Historical learning from the first year of school

For a long time the prevailing opinion was that history in the historical sense could not be discussed in elementary school because children first an understanding of time would have to develop. This view has changed in the meantime, even in daycare the understanding of time is related to changes in the environment, which often inevitably lead to historical questions. Also the realization that children learn most effectively when a Learning topic recognized by yourself and was introduced, shows the way to take up historical topics from elementary school onwards, encounters the children in the media, in museums, in conversations with grandparents, when old buildings are demolished, the question of historical contexts.

The methods are certainly different in one General education in elementary school and one Secondary school history class. However, the principle and goals remain the same. It's about getting the students to think of themselves To think about the changeability of the world and peoplebut also to see them in connection with the respective living conditions and to arouse their interest in these questions. They should Methods like tapping into historical sources get to know and build up the knowledge about a chronology of the development of the big and small worlds.

Lots are historical subjects for students abstract and not understandable here can Children's books be a bridge, on the one hand children's novels in which stories from other times are told. That children have a great interest in it is shown not least by the success of a series such as "The magical tree house", in which the children - embedded in a recurring framework - include be led into bygone times. Chapter 2 takes a closer look at these books. Another option, which is the focus of Chapter 3, is non-fiction books on historical topics that allow students to do initial source studies. Even if the texts are primary sources, you will already learn there to open up texts and to question the information and to classify it in the major chronology. In Chapter 4 you will find references to further Internet sites and books that deal with the topic.

Children's novels with historical reference

Children don't just learn what teachers want them to teach in school. School learning material encounters them more or less in mediathat they use in their free time. Children's books have been selected as the main medium here because they are often the basic medium for adaptations in Audio books, board games, digital games and films are. It is true of all media that - insofar as they deal with historical topics - they also impart knowledge that children and young people can often access better than the theoretical knowledge imparted in school.

The use of these media in the classroom has a double effect, it makes the pupils more fun than working with worksheets, tables or excerpts from text, because the stories are closer to their lives, and the students learn that they have to check and question the information conveyed there before they can store it as facts.

For some book series like "The time detectives" Therefore, there are now special manuals in which the historical facts from the books are explained and deepened.

The selection of books depends on many factors, first and foremost whether there is a book on the chosen topic at all. There is an abundance of individual children's books on some historical events such as the Holocaust; they make it possible to take up, question and classify a specific event. In addition, there are more books in the book series in which epochs such as "Ancient Rome" or "Egypt" are discussed. You can use these books Life, culture and politics in a certain period of time to be worked out.

Some examples of series with a wide historical range are:
  • Crime scene research (Loewe): from 10 years, guessing thriller, topics, etc. Troy, Gutenberg, Zeppelin, Diesel.

  • Crime scene stories (Loewe): from 10 years, guessing thriller, topics, etc. Egypt, Ludwig IVX, ancient Trier, Maya, Martin Luther, ancient Greece)

  • Tiger eye (dtv-junior): from 8 years, topics a. Ice Age, Vikings, Middle Ages in Mainz and Cologne, Greece, Egypt
    ( - with teaching material to download)

  • The time detectives (Ravensburger): from 8 years, topics i.a. Pompeii, Ancient Rome, Hannibal, Egypt, Vikings)

Books on individual topics and reviews of individual books from the series can be found at

Non-fiction books with historical reference

While the students in novels the clues to the historical background have to develop themselves, these are already prepared and largely in non-fiction books Described according to age. The exact search for clues is not required here, but knowledge-based reading of a factual text. The students are thus sent to the Processing of historical sources introduced. Again, they should learn that to question the information obtained and to check against other sources, another non-fiction book, a factual text or on the Internet. In this way, the students learn not to trust just one source, which is important with a view to Wikipedia; many students rely solely on this Source of knowledge.

So that the readers Enjoy reading factual texts win, it is important that the Age-appropriate selection he follows. There are now series with non-fiction books for every reading age, but of course also individual titles. By using a reading pen like, texts with difficult terms can also be read and understood by younger children.

Non-fiction book series that also deal with historical topics are, for example:
  • Arena library of knowledge (Arena): from 12 years, topics a. Frederick the Great, Caesar, Alexnder the Great, Charlemagne, Crusades (

  • Baff! Knowledge (Arena): from 8 years, topics a. Stone Age, Egypt

  • ask me something (Loewe): from 6 years, topics i.a. Stone Age, Vikings, Knights, Ancient Egypt

  • What's what (Book series) (Tessloff): from 8 years, topics a. The prehistoric man, ancient Rome, Vikings, Egypt ( - in addition to the book series, there are various media on individual topics, so that multimedia processing is possible)

  • Why why why? (Ravensburger): from 5 years, topics i.a. Rome, knights, pirates. (

For dealing with children's books

Reading and dealing with children's novels and non-fiction books are very different. Children's novels are read in schools primarily with a view to literary means. In the case of books with a historical background, this question should take a back seat in order to focus more on contemporary history. The students should be encouraged to look in the novel for traces of another time, for a different way of life and society, for clothes that are different, foods that are unknown or names and designations etc. This gives the students a whole new approach to literature, which will also be helpful to you in literary-oriented reading. It is advisable, To issue read orders and to document the results with learning posters or mind maps, possibly one that can be read from the book Create timelinebefore the truth of the information is checked in the second step using reference works, the Internet, sources, textbooks or experts.

When working on non-fiction books in the classroom, the focus is more on filtering out the most important information from a designated factual text, checking it against other sources and then classifying it in the existing knowledge.

Reading books with historical reference is also suitable as a Project work or content of a project weekIn addition to the research on the Internet or with books, an on-site research in the local history museum or a conversation with an expert can be included.

What is special about this way of dealing with literature is that the students be made aware of the hidden informationthat may contain media. You will learn that learning takes place everywhere and that it pays to go through the (media) world with open eyes.

Literature & Links

  • Klaus Bergmann, Rita Rohrbach:
    Children discover history. Theory and practice of historical learning in elementary school and early history lessons.
    Wochenschau Verlag 2001

  • Elementary School General Education No. 43, 3rd Quarter 2009:
    Methods of historical learning. Explore history.
    Seelze: Friedrich.

  • Kerstin Michalik (Ed.):
    History-related learning in general teaching.
    Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt 2004

  • Dietmar von Reeken:
    Historical learning in general science. An introduction with tips for teaching. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren 2011.

  • Monika Rox-Helmer:
    Youth books in history class. Wochenschau-Verlag 2006

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