Social Studies Through Children's Literature is broken into two main parts. Part I, "Children's Literature in the Social Studies Curriculum," explains the basics of how children learn about their world, along with the two recommended approaches to study.
The first is a "widening horizons" approach to social studies: child/self, families, communities, cities, states or regions, nation, and then the world. "Widening horizons" is usually followed in the textbook, fact-memorizing method.
The second system of study is commonly called the "spiral approach." In this method, students are introduced to concepts rather than environments: landforms, cultures, and political systems. The "spiral method" of instruction lends itself more easily to hands-on activities and is also known as "inquiry learning."
Integrating both methods, the author's approach quickly lends itself to the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, allowing children to develop self-directed learning while retaining more information for increased periods of time. Included in this section are examples of the "process approach" which will result in an integrated and dynamic program. Again, Charlotte Mason and unit studies advocates will take note that this closely resembles their teaching philosophies.
Social Studies through Children's Literature emphasizes a "whole language-multi-disciplinary" approach to teaching. The author lists five and a half pages of suggested activities that can be applied to nearly every subject. The list is divided into the categories: Social Studies, Language Arts, and Reading, Social Studies and Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Health, Social Studies and Art, Social Studies and Physical Education, and lastly, Social Studies, Music, and Drama. Most of these activities can be done by any homeschooling family.
Remaining in part I, are sections titled, "Teaching Social Studies via Bookwebbing" and "Teaching Social Studies via Thematic Units." Examples of each are provided. Books highlighted in part I are Town and Country, The Little House, A Visit to the Post Office, and Farm Morning.
Part II "Activities and Processes" includes a brief introduction to the section. A total of 32 books are listed in this portion with activities for various ability ranges (high-low) and Kindergarten through sixth grade. Selections from each category include the well-known titles People by Peter Spier, Sarah Morton's Day, Ox Cart Man, Shaker Lane, Night in the Country, Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt, Your Best Friend Kate, A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr., The Star Spangled Banner by Peter Spier, and Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton.
Each selection gives a three to four sentence summary of the book, the social studies topic/topics covered, a small vocabulary list, an author's perspective (very important when utilizing secular materials), a list of critical thinking questions, related books, and a list of activities to choose from. One selection boasts 33 suggested activities, so you can see that the options are many. Two appendixes list an annotated bibliography of children's literature and additional social studies resources.
Social Studies through Children's Literature is a wonderful guide to using literature as your textbook. It is systematic enough for those who feel the need for a scope and sequence, yet stimulating and inspiring for those of us who prefer not to use a textbook. Social Studies through Children's Literature is a gift to both teacher and student alike. It will make planning your unit study easier while fulfilling those state requirements. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a better way to teach social studies!