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UW-RF Instructor Reviews Children's Literature

February 5, 1999

By Mary Sandelands
UW-RF News Bureau

The National Council for Social Studies has recently published the book, "Children's Literature in Social Studies: Teaching to the Standards," written by UW-River Falls Professor DeAn Krey.

Krey, a professor in the College of Education & Graduate Studies, designed her book to assist teachers in the selection of children's books representing the NCSS 10 thematic strands of social studies. These thematic strands include the major ideas that come from history, geography, political science, economics, and the behavioral sciences.

The idea for the book came to Krey when she started receiving the same questions from her undergraduate and graduate students at UW-River Falls. Her students were asking if she knew about children and young adult books that represented various social studies topics.

Krey began to see the need for a list that teachers and future teachers could consult for their studies. Her book can assist the teachers, local social studies curriculum committees, and librarians who are in search of quality books to teach social studies themes.

Krey believes that children's books have great potential in the social studies curriculum. She points out that children's books can expand a student's knowledge of events that aren't experienced first-hand, it can provide a perspective that include human emotions, it offers a holistic picture of human events, it can distinguish differences between facts and the human characteristics of people involved, and it gives the opportunity to identify with characters, events, and emotions that they may be able to relate with.

The collection of books are divided by chapters that cover culture; time, continuity, and change; people, place, and environment; individual development and identity; individuals, groups, and institutions; power, authority, and governance; production, distribution, and consumption; science, technology, and society; global connections; and civic ideals and practices.

Her research started in 1996 and continued for two and a half years. She spent some of her time on a sabbatical reading over 1,300 children's books addressing socials studies issues.

Krey says she set out to find exemplary books which were high quality pieces of children's literature that could be suggested to classroom teachers to help them accomplish the teaching of the 10 thematic strands.

The criteria for her selections was the book's potential for constructing at least one of the strands, how interesting the books are in a variety of ways, the accuracy of the books and the absence of misconceptions and stereotypes. She also reviewed the book's representation of a multicultural view of the world, high literary quality, whether the books contain illustrations or photographs that support the text, and if the books are developmentally appropriate for children ages 5 to 11. After reading most of those books, Krey found over 500 that fit her criteria.

As for the author, Krey began her career as an elementary school teacher for the second and sixth grades and has been working in the College of Education & Graduate Studies at UW-RF since 1969.

Her teaching skills were recognized through her selection as a UW-RF Distinguished Teacher Award, the highest award presented by the University, as well as recognition through the Outstanding Faculty Award from her college.

Krey has been involved with many social studies organizations. She is the chairperson of the national selection committee for "Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies," and she is a past president of the Wisconsin Council for Social Studies.

"It was so satisfying to have the time to just sit and read good children's literature. I learned from it. I saw new perspectives...and expanded my own understanding of the human being," says Krey.

The book has been sent to 9,000 teachers of social studies as a membership benefit of the National Council for Social Studies. It is available for purchase at the UW-RF bookstore and can be directly ordered from NCSS Publications at 1-800-683-0812.

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