Tell All the Children Our Story Discussion Guide
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Subject Area: African-American History/Biography
From the first recorded birth of a black child in Jamestown all the way up until the present day, this is African-American history from the perspective of the children who lived through it. A scrapbook of letters, photos, artwork, testimonials, and more, this is the history that didn't make it into the original history books - the agonies and the sweet victories of African-American children.
Students will use this book as a stepping-stone to learn more about African-American history and culture and to foster further discussion and enlightenment.
Standard: Reflects on what has been learned after reading and formulates ideas, opinions, and personal responses to texts
Ask your class to name the people they consider to be the most famous and influential African-Americans in history. Make a list on the board. Then, make a second list on the board of African-Americans who can be considered famous and successful today. How do the people on the first and second lists compare with one another? Are they famous for different reasons? Why do your students think this is?
Sources of History
- Tell All the Children Our Story makes use of a number of primary sources. Ask students to list the different ways that history is recorded on paper, providing examples from the book. Answers may include letters, journals, newspapers, autobiographies, etc. What are some examples of recorded history that don't appear in the book (audio, video, etc.)?
- Next, ask students to come up with different ways that history is preserved other than written documents. Answers may include storytelling, songs, art, poetry, and archaeology. Which of these forms appears in Tell All the Children Our Story?
- One of the strengths of Tell All the Children Our Story is that it presents factual history in a different manner than in a typical American history textbook. Ask your students to take out a piece of paper and write a paragraph contrasting the two: How is Tell All the Children Our Story different from a school textbook? After they are finished, encourage students to share their paragraphs with the class.
- Finally, ask students to give their own personal response to Tell All the Children Our Story. How did they respond to the "less traditional" forms of conveying history, such as songs, poems, letters, and drawings? Did the children's perspective (in the book) appeal to your students? Would they prefer to use this book or a history textbook if they were writing a report? What if they were reading for fun?
BONUS: Ask students to discuss the ways that history within their own families is passed down. How do they learn about the lives of their parents, grandparents, and their ancestors and extended family?
- One of the main themes that runs through Tell All the Children Our Story is the desire for a good education. Ask students to take turns summarizing the evolution of African-American education in America based on what they learned from these accounts. At each stage, ask students for their own personal responses to this information.
- Discuss the history of the desegregation movement in your school area. (You will probably need to do some research in the library or on the Internet to find out this information.) What changes have occurred over the last 100 years? What impact do your students feel today?
- Do your students believe that the same importance is placed upon education today among African Americans and other races and ethnic groups? Why or why not? If there is still a desire to be successful, what paths other than a good education are now available?
BONUS: If you feel comfortable, lead your students in a discussion of prejudice in America. Why were desegregation and the civil rights movement met with such fervent opposition? Why do they think different groups hate each other? Why do some prejudices vanish away, while others linger on? What do they think can be done to combat prejudice in America?
Other Examples of Young People in History
Witnesses to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights
by Belinda Rochelle
An overview of the civil rights movement from the perspective of the children and teenagers who were there. There are first-person testimonials from Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine and Claudette Colvin, who was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white man months before Rosa Parks.
We Were There Too! Young People in U.S. History
by Philip M. Hoose
Children don't turn up much in American history books, but they were there too, and now it's time to hear their story! Children played a part in every major event in U.S. history, from Columbus's voyages to the Americas to the civil rights movement, and now it's time to hear who they were and what they have to say.
Other Books by Tonya Bolden
33 Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems and Smart Talk by 33 Extraordinary Women
33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A.
And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women
Mama, I Want to Sing
Teaching plan written by Beth Doty