Historical Eras of Young Readers

    American colonies     United States     Old Testament     New Testament     Ancient Greece     Ancient Rome     Europe     Legends

American colonies—1492 to 1883

Voyage of Columbus to Revolutionary War

The American Colonies division of the Young Readers collection focuses on Colonial History of the British settlements in the Americas, but also includes Stories of Discovery of the new world undertaken by Spanish and French explorers.

Squanto and the Pilgrims
Young students enjoy stories from the earliest colonies, including the adventures of Colonists in Jamestown and the dramatic events of the Pilgrim Settlers of Plymouth colony. Students should also be familiar with stories of other notable colonies such as William Penn of Pennsylvania, the Dutch founders of New York, Roger Williams of Rhode Island, and James Oglethorpe of Georgia. James Otis Colonial Children includes several volumes that feature stories of early settlers and are an excellent introduction to the period.

Many of the conflicts covered in the American Colonial division are wars between early settlers and American Indians. The Young Readers collection includes stories of several well-known American Indians, such as Squanto, Pocahontas, and Pontiac, but it does not include books that present a broader view of American Indian history. Most books that specifically address Indian history are included in the Early America Academy Couse, intended for slightly older readers.

Other important conflicts, such as the Revolutionary War, and the French-Indian War that preceded it are covered by several books in the Young Readers collection. The Revolutionary War period is one of the most interesting periods of American History to many children because it features stories about well-known American heroes, such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and dozens of other early patriots.

Most of the Young Reader Study Questions that relate to the colonial period of Early American history are taken from America First by Evans, and the first two volumes of the American History Stories series by Pratt.

United States—1883 to 1865

Washington President to Civil War

The United States History division of the Young Readers collection begins with stories of the founding fathers, the constitution, and the first presidents, and continues to the early 20th century. George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln are a few of the American Presidents of most interest to young readers, but many favorite stories of early American history have to do with adventure, exploration, and invention rather than politics.

The United States were founded during the heydays of the industrial revolution, and the spirit of invention was part of American culture from its earliest years. Many of the American histories featured in the Young Readers collection include stories of inventors such as Eli Whitney (cotton gin), Robert Fulton (steam ship), and Samuel Morse (telegraph). The age of invention continued throughout the 19th century, with the introduction of canals, cross country railroads, agricultural equipment, the telephone, and Thomas Edison's light bulb. By turn of the 20th century, the automobile had been invented, telephones were common, and airplanes were just around the corner.

Explorers and early settlers were just as important to the American experience as inventors, and their stories are just as exciting to young readers. Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, and Buffalo Bill, were only a few of hundreds of American pioneers. James' Otis' Colonial Children series is a wonderful introduction to American pioneer life and features the stories of children who settled western territories, as well as the original colonies.

In terms of conflicts, the American Civil War was by far the most important war in early American history and it involves many stories and characters of interest to younger students. Pratt's American History Stories—Volume IV, covers the civil war in age-appropriate detail, and a simplified version of Uncle Tom's Cabin is also available to help younger students understand the problems with slavery. Short stories from other conflicts, such as the War of 1812, the Texas War of Independence, and the Mexican American War are mentioned in several books intended for children, but none are covered in as much detail as the Civil War.

The Heritage Classical Curriculum, because it draws on history books written prior to 1923, only deals with American History until the close of World War I. This, however, is a suitable break point, since the progressive philosophy of government ushered in at that time fundamentally changed the nature of American government.

Most of the Young Reader Study Questions that relate to Early American history are taken from America First by Evans, the third and fourth volumes of the American History Stories series by Pratt, and selections from Baldwin's Famous Stories series.

Old Testament—4000 to 400 B.C.

Garden of Eden to Nehemiah

Burning of Sodom
Bible stories rewritten for children are always a favorite of elementary school students, and many are so well done that a solid understanding of all the major stories of the Bible is accessible to school-aged children. Younger students are surprisingly adept at picking up ironic, moral, or humorous anecdotes. One only needs to read Aesop for Children to a kindergartener to realize how sensitive youngsters are to moral lessons.

From the first sin in the Garden of Eden to the heroic lives and adventures of the Apostles, the Young Readers' collection of Bible stories offers a vibrant and entertaining take on traditional Biblical tales, without reducing the moral and spiritual impact of these stories. These tales focus mainly on Biblical heroes and heroines, retelling their lives and stories in a similar manner to popular fairy tales.

One of our favorite Children's Bibles is Steedman's beautifully illustrated Nursery Book of Bible Stories. It was the primary source for the Young Readers' Biblical Study Questions, but many Children's Bibles feature similar stories. Evan's Heroes of Israel and Chisholm's Stories from the Old Testament Told to the Children also provide an excellent selection of Old Testament stories rewritten for young readers. Several other Children's Bibles, including Story of the Bible Told for Young and Old, Story of the Chosen People, and Children's Bible - New Testament are available in the Heritage History collection, but they are significantly longer and more detailed than those included in the Young Readers collection.

New Testament—0 to 100 A.D.

Birth of Jesus to Acts of the Apostles

Jesus and the crowds.
While the Old Testament is composed of many stories and characters that are easily simplified for younger children, the New Testament focuses on the life of Christ and his apostles, and is more challenging to translate into a child-friendly narrative. The gospels themselves are are full of fascinating stories and parables, but most of the epistles are not easy to represent in story-based form.

The Heritage History Library currently contains nine Children's Bibles but only four are simplified enough to be included in the Young Readers collection. And of these only Steedman's Nursery Book of Bible Stories, and Kelman's Stories from the Life of Christ Told to the Children, cover the New Testament, including stories about the apostles as well as the parables of Jesus. Both these books provide an excellent introduction to the Gospels and there are many more choices available for advanced students.

In addition to the Gospels, the stories of certain saints and Christian heroes, such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Christopher are included in this category because they tend to emphasize spiritual rather than political history. Like the stories of the Bible, the stories of saints emphasize the manner in which God continues to work in the lives of his people and they are of great interest to students with a Christian worldview.

Ancient Greece—Legendary to 300 B.C.

Trojan War to Alexander the Great

The Ancient History division of the Young Readers collection focuses primarily on Greek and Roman history because these civilizations are essential to understanding Western Culture. They are also especially appealing to young people, when presented at an age-appropriate level. Greek History is especially attractive to children because it is rich in mythology and some of its more romantic conflicts, including the Greco Persian Wars and Macedonian Conquest of Persia are especially interesting to young readers.

The Ancient Greece division of the Young Readers collection is mostly composed of fables, fiction, and mythology rather than authentic history, although Lemon's Stories from Greek History introduces a handful of important Greek characters, including Solon, Themistocles, and Alexander the Great. Greek folklore is especially interesting to very young children, and Milo Winter's beautifully illustrated Aesop for Children has been a childhood favorite for nearly 100 years. Children's versions of the Stories from the Iliad Told to the Children and Stories from the Odyssey Told to the Children are simple enough to hold younger student's interest as well, while Lemon's Stories from Greek History provide a very short introduction to Greek history for older students. Lemon's short history, along with selected stories from Baldwin's Famous Stories series, are the source for most of the Young Readers Study Questions having to do with Ancient Greece.

Once students are ready to start learning comprehensive history, we recommend they begin with Greek history. The Ancient Greece Academy Course features many more stories of Greek myths and heroes that are always favorites of young readers. But more importantly, Greek history, along with the Biblical stories of Israel, it is truly the foundation of Western Civilization and it is important that students understand where the unique ideas and attitudes of Western civilization arose.

Ancient Rome—750 B.C. to 450 A.D.

Romulus to Fall of Rome

Roman Soldier
The Ancient Rome division of the Young Readers collection is fairly limited, since most introductory histories of the period are written at an intermediate level. Roman history, as well as Greek history, is fundamental to understanding Western Civilization, so younger students should at least be familiar a few of the major characters.

Ancient history is especially attractive to young students, partly because it is so rich in mythology, and partly because it has an exceptionally interesting military history that is quite appealing, especially to boys. Rome rose on the strength of her exceptionally well organizing fighting forces, and declined over a long period, when her civilization became corrupt. Rome's history therefore, is full of terrific military adventures and moral lessons which can easily be appreciated by younger students.

In terms of heroism and adventure, the attractions of Roman history are even greater. Few modern heroes can compare with Horatius, Pompey or Julius Caesar, and few modern villains are as interesting as or Attila the Hun. The Young Reader's collection includes only a few books that focus only on Roman history, but stories about famous Romans are also included in several anthologies of famous stories and works of historical fiction.

Most of the Young Reader Study Questions that relate to Roman history are taken from Lemon's Stories from Greek History and selected stories from the Famous Stories series by Baldwin. Heritage History offers many more books of interest about Roman history in the Ancient Rome Academy Course for intermediate students.

Europe—500 to 1800

Baptism of Clovis to French Revolution

European history is the most complicated of the divisions covered in the Young Readers collection because it is so varied. The European is a patchwork of national histories, legends, and hero stories. The Young Readers collection includes dozens of books that cover important incidents and characters in European history, but few that give a broad view of the period.

Sir Walter and Queen Elizabeth
Since European history is such a large topic the Heritage Classical Curriculum breaks the History of Europe into several different divisions, focusing on Britain, continental Europe, and Spain. All of these divisions are grouped together in the Young Readers collection for the sake of simplicity, so only a few famous characters and events from each nation are introduced. A comprehensive review of European history is postponed until students are more advanced.

The European history section of Young Readers is composed mostly of short biographies and historical fiction. Even those books, such as Old Time Tales and Stories from French History, that cover a range of stories from European history only touch on a few incidents of special interest. Most of the stories the European section focus on the Middle Ages, rather than modern times, since knights and chivalry, kings and queens, monks and crusaders, and medieval heroes are easy to romanticize in a way that interests young students. Some modern topics, such as the French Revolution, are covered briefly, but most topics regarding Modern European history are left for later years.

The Young Readers European selections help students become familiar with famous European characters, folklore, literature and nationalities without undertaking anything too ambitious. Most of the European history Study Questions are based on Evan's Old Time Tales, and selections from Baldwin's Famous Stories series.

Legends—Legendary to 1400

Beowulf to William Tell

Robin and Little John
European history is rich with legendary heroes,—many of whom are based on real people. William Tell, Roland, St. George, and El Cid, for example, are all based on genuine historical characters, although there is much debate about the extent to which their stories are fictionalized. Others, heroes, such as Beowulf, Siegfried, King Arthur, and Guy of Warwick are based on literary works. Most legendary characters of Europe have long-standing oral as well as written traditions, and the names of the great heroes are immortalized in battle cries and minstrel's songs, as well as children's stories.

Legends are universally popular with young children, and the Young Readers collection includes over a dozen books based primarily on folk heroes, mostly from the Told to the Children series. In addition to fictional legendary heroes, many mythical stories having to do with authentic historical figures such as Richard the Lion-hearted, Barbarossa, or Charlemagne are also part of European folklore. There are also dozens of stories about quirky town-folk, enchanted objects, and despicable villains.

These tales allow a closer look at some of the more turbulent times in Europe's history viewed through the entertaining lens of popular folklore. The Young Readers section on Legends, is therefore, an important part of a Children's introduction to European history, and is just as important as "real" history in terms of developing students' cultural literacy.

The Young Readers Study Questions having to do with legends are based on selected chapters from several books including Scudder's Book of Legends, Evan's Old Time Tales, Lansing's Page—Esquire—Knight and volumes from the Told to the Children series.