Date of Award
Master of Arts
Michael Lund, Ph.D.
Rhonda L. Brock-Servais, Ph.D.
Martha E. Cook, Ph.D.
The study of history has always been an important part of learning. Young people might ask, "Why do I need to learn about something I cannot change?" When asked "Why Study History?" William H. McNeill states in Historical Literacy : The Case For History in American Education that the "value of historical knowledge obviously justifies teaching and learning about what happened in recent times, for the way things are descends from the way they were yesterday and the day before that" (104). Between the years 1955 to 1963 Grossett and Dunlap Publishers introduce a concept that brings personal involvement into historical events by integrating young boys and girls into the action. The "We Were There" books seem to be developed as lessons in story form to teach young readers how to become the responsible, productive adults.
This series is diverse in historical events, such as a cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail and Darwin's discoveries of nature. The authors tend to follow Margaret Mallett's thoughts, in Making Facts Matter, concerning non-fiction in that it "helps satisfy the young child's great curiosity about the world of people, plants, animals, inanimate objects and events and feelings about all these things. But knowledge is not just a matter of acquiring facts, it includes coming to understand the significance of the facts"(68).
The goal of the "We Were There" book series is to enhance the learning experience by incorporating influential teachers, such as parent figures, employers, neighbors, friends, and famous historical leaders, and by including lessons on foreign Schwartz 2 language, science, religion, ethical conduct, social and political issues, and family relationships.
The "We Were There" series concept and popularity are validated by Scholastic's recently published "Dear America Series" for girls and the "My Name is America Series" for boys, in which similar historical events are written in diary and journal form for
young readers. Each "We Were There" book contains a lesson that takes the reader one step closer to understanding what is required when entering into the :final stages of adulthood, such as absorbing events, analyzing those events as to how they influence their lives, then taking what they perceive as the appropriate action. Once a young person has traveled with the "We Were There” characters through the series, in its entirety, an evolution will have taken place, within the reader, that encompasses an enhanced understanding of the universe he or she shares with diverse people and events that form life lessons.
Gasteiger Schwartz, Deanna Lee, ""We Were There": Anatomy of a Successful Series of Historical Novels for Young People" (2003). Theses, Dissertations & Honors Papers. 123.