There's been a push in certain circles for "patriotic curriculum" that discourages kids from looking at American history through a critical lens. Educators should be pushing back on that. Hard.
Many of us grew up learning an incredibly whitewashed version of American history from older social studies textbooks. Our kids deserve better than that.
A recent review of The Next President, my picture book with @MrAdamRex, suggested that we shouldn’t have mentioned the fact that most of America’s first presidents enslaved people. Why? Because it might make kids think they were less heroic.
This reviewer wasn’t looking for history. She was looking for mythology. She was looking for a founding myth. And of course, this reviewer was an adult. Kids, I’ve found, are better at sitting with discomfort. Better at considering that more than one thing can be true.
When kids write to me about that page in The Next President – or about my History Smashers series, which is aimed at unraveling the lies & myths we sometimes teach young kids about history – they’re more thoughtful. They have questions.
Kids are more curious about history - about what really happened – especially when historical documents show that something they’ve been told their whole lives might not be true – or isn’t the whole story.
It’s so important that we remember we’re not just teaching students in classrooms today. We’re teaching tomorrow’s leaders. In order to make things better, and more just, they need an honest picture of history.
I’m really grateful that our new HISTORY SMASHERS series is becoming part of that conversation in so many classrooms. If you teach & haven’t seen them yet, books 1 and 2 are out now. They smash some of the myths surrounding the 1st Thanksgiving & the fight for women’s suffrage.
History Smashers: Pearl Harbor will be out this winter and includes not only the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor but the racism against Japanese Americans that followed.
The series continues in 2021 with History Smashers: Titanic, History Smashers: American Revolution, and History Smashers: Plagues and Pandemics, which covers everything from the Plague of Athens and the Black Death to COVID-19.

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More from @KateMessner

7 Sep
In a recent review of The Next President, someone objected to the page that discusses America's first presidents because it includes the fact that most of them enslaved people. I'd like to unpack that idea a bit... (thread)
The reviewer suggested that this fact somehow doesn’t belong in a book for kids, that a children’s book about presidents should include only positive things about each one.
The reviewer was concerned that kids might read that fact about America’s earliest presidents and judge them for it, for writing about equality while they enslaved people on their own plantations. What if some kids decided that those early presidents were not such great people?
Read 17 tweets
20 Aug
I'm teaching a workshop on virtual events for authors this week, but I want to share some thoughts w/ visit hosts here, too. If you're hosting an online event, it's essential that you understand the security features - or lack thereof - in whatever platform you're using. (thread)
Hosting a virtual author event without setting up security, controls, and ongoing monitoring by a host is akin to putting your panelists out on a street corner to be harassed. It's not okay.
Last night, two amazing Black authors being hosted for what should have been a book launch celebration dealt with zoom-bombing and racial slurs until the event had to be shut down. That's unacceptable. And it's preventable.
Read 11 tweets
2 Jul
Part of dismantling white supremacy in America involves changing how we teach history, telling the truth about things like colonization & racism in the women's suffrage movement. That's a major goal of my new series HISTORY SMASHERS. (thread)
penguinrandomhouse.com/series/RLD/his…
It's important that we teach kids the value of primary sources - but also teach them to question those sources. Much of the Pilgrims' writing, for example, aims to justify the taking of land that had been home to Native people for thousands of years.
Stories painting the Pilgrims as scrappy and heroic survivors are part of America's founding myths - so they get repeated over and over. Even when they're not true. The traditional "First Thanksgiving" narrative is one of those myths.
Read 8 tweets
30 Jun
So I'm sharing a series of history quizzes leading up to the launch of my new series HISTORY SMASHERS next week. Yesterday I asked you to finish this sentence:

In July of 1620, the Pilgrims sold off most of their possessions and boarded a ship. That ship was called...

(thread)
Of the 440+ Twitter friends who answered that question, 57% chose the Mayflower.

2% chose the Nina or the Pinta (one of those tweeted to let me know she clicked the wrong thing by accident)

And 41% figured I was being sneaky; it was none of the above. (They were right!)
They boarded a ship called The Speedwell. But it was kind of a sad excuse for a ship. They had to keep turning back because it was so leaky. And finally they realized they couldn't sail the thing across the ocean. So....
Read 8 tweets
28 Feb
I’ve been getting questions lately from people who are just hearing about the Ranger in Time series, so here’s a thread about that – including the newest title, Escape from the Twin Towers.
The series is about a time-traveling search & rescue dog…a golden retriever who’s been trained in modern search and rescue techniques. And he can time travel, so he can go back in time to any historical disaster where his skills might be helpful. These were the first two books:
I’ve written more than 30 books for kids, and these have been the most popular, by far. The combination of a heroic dog, coupled with interesting history and lots of action, has a way of engaging even kids who don’t always love reading.
Read 11 tweets
4 Jun 19
I just got an email from a Catholic school librarian who told me she purchased BREAKOUT but won’t put it in the library because she doesn’t like the way it discusses bias in the criminal justice system. I have some thoughts on this…
Here’s the deal… There are some racist characters in BREAKOUT. Some of them are police officers. There are also characters working hard to fight racism and build community. Some of them are police officers, too.
There are also white characters in BREAKOUT who WANT to be helpful - but they say racist things because of ignorance. (Spoiler: This happens in the real world, too.)
Read 12 tweets

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