“I hate history.”
Can you imagine my shock when my little sister said those three words to me? I come from a very academic family, after all. My father is the resident expert on the 20th century, my mother loves Medieval European history and I am obsessed with anything Roman and Egyptian. For my little sister to hate history was like a fish hating water; it didn’t make any sense. Alas, school had robbed her of all desire to have anything to do with history.
But I am a patient person. I had a plan to change her mind.
She was eleven at the time and I know it sounds ridiculous, but I began reading aloud to her that summer. At first it was shorter books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it eventually progressed to books like Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr. By reading aloud to her every day, she began to take an interest in reading and soon asked if I could give her a book list for her to work through on her own. On that list was Alone in an Untamed Land, a book in the Dear Canada series written from the point of view of a filles du roi.
It was written in diary form, something she could relate to. I was pretty sure at the time that she’d enjoy it. So guess what she asked me the next day when she finished the book? “Carrie, do you have the rest of the series?” And of course I did. Soon, she was reading two Dear Canada books a day and loving them. She was enjoying reading and learning about Canadian history without even realizing it. Imagine my delight when she began reading Carolyn Meyer’s Young Royals series, which she checked out from the school library on her own! The Young Royals series was just the start…
All this took place about a year ago and now my sister no longer declares that she hates history when she comes home from school. As I discovered, she never really hated history. What she hated was the way it was presented in school, as a bunch of boring dates and events in dusty, falling apart textbooks. Historical fiction helped her discover her love of history and now she can’t get enough of it. She has just finished devouring Pauline Gedge’s The King’s Man trilogy and will soon be starting Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series. Did I mention that she’s only twelve and a half years old?
The lesson here for parents is don’t be surprised if your kids say they hate history. The way it is taught in school really does make it seem like a bunch of boring, irrelevant events. Honestly, the best thing you can do for your child is to find good, age-appropriate historical fiction and buy it for them. You’ll soon see them with their nose stuck in a book all day and such a simple investment (usually around than $10.00, even less if you buy them used) can give your child a lifelong passion for history that not even school can dampen.