In college, I studied American History and Politics, but my interest in these subjects was sparked long before that, when as a child, I was exposed to several books, movies and TV shows that celebrated American history.
Three items in particular had a tremendous impact on me, and made me want to learn more about my country. Schoolhouse Rock was a series of educational shorts that ran in between the cartoons on Saturday mornings. Almost anyone of my generation will tell you that they learned and can only recite the Preamble to the Constitution by singing along with that series' famous "Preamble" song. There is also a sketch called "Fireworks" which teaches about the Declaration of Independence and the 4th of July, and one called "No More Kings" which is all about the colonists' grievances against George III.
Next, my mom shared the movie 1776 with my sister and me when we were about 7 or 8. The musical tells the story of the creation of the Declaration of Independence, and though the movie is long, for the curious and interested child, it may answer a lot of questions and also foster that yearning to know more. I still watch the movie every year on July 4th, and the actor William Daniels will forever be known as "John Adams" to me, because I saw him in this movie as a child.
Lastly, there is the book Ben and Me, by Robert Lawson, which tells the story of Benjamin Franklin via Amos, a faithful mouse who serves as his assistant and friend throughtout the birth of our nation. Mr Revere and I, by the same author, takes a simlar approach to the story of Paul Revere, narrated by his trusty horse. "Ben and Me" was also made into a wonderful Disney movie, though I recommend reading the book first.
Here are some other books to share with children who may be interested in learning about America:
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz. Fritz writes non-fiction for young children in a very story-like manner. She has titles about many important figures in American history.
Did it All Start With a Snowball Fight?, and other questions about the Revolutionary War, by Mary Kay Carson.
George vs George, the American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer.
Revolutionary War On Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne is just one of the celebrated Magic tree House titles in which Jack and Annie travel back in time and encounter our Founding Fathers. Also by Mary Pope Osbone is Happy Birthday, America, a sweet story of one family's Fourth of July celebration.
Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley. An easy reader about the Battle of Lexington.
So You Want to Be President by Judith St George, is the winner of the 2000 Caldecott Medal, and presents facts about our presidents from Washington to Clinton in a way that is humorous and visually appealing.
Yankee Doodle America: The Spirit of 1776 from A to Z, by Wendell Minor. A Revolutionary War alphabet book.
For older kids, I'd recommend Give Me Liberty, The Story of The Declaration of Independence by Russell Freedman, a Newbery Award-winning author who writes non-fiction for kids in a way that makes it accessible and exciting.
There are so many historical fiction titles for older readers. My favorite author for novels of this period is Ann Rinaldi, particularly, The Fifth of March, about a governess who is working for John and Abigail Adams at the time of the Boston Massacre, The Secret of Sarah Revere, in which Paul Revere's daughter is the protagonist, and Finishing Becca, a novel about Peggy Shippen, the woman who convinced Benedict Arnold to spy for the British.
These are just a handful of books that may interest your kids over this Fourth of July Holiday. Ask your librarian for additional suggestions.