CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 13 . . . . February 16, 2007
The introduction to each of the six volumes in the Early Canada Series begins by pointing out that Canada is a large country with several geographic regions and that the climate, land and resources of these areas shaped the experiences of five different groups of people - Aboriginals, Acadians, explorers, fur traders, missionaries and settlers. Every introduction focuses on the importance of learning about events in Canadian history to help us understand our country today and goes on to liken the historians' task of putting together pieces of information from different sources to putting a puzzle together. "Sometimes pieces are missing, so the puzzle is not complete. Then historians must try to guess what really happened."
Each of these cloth bound books has 48 pages. In all six books, 18 topics are organized into two-page chapters which alternate the written words with visual material. There are photographs (modern and archival) paintings, drawings, maps, and charts, breaking up the text-a particularly valuable feature for young historians! Each two-page chapter is accompanied by a side-bar summary and many include a "further understanding" inset which zeroes in on a nugget of information intended both to interest and help young readers in their comprehension of the topic.
Higher level thinking is addressed in each volume on page 44 where the reader finds a list of activities encouraging reflection or further research on the issue under discussion. ("Should the Government Ban the Potlach" is one example, while other tasks include analyzing statistics and debating the issue of expelling the Acadians.) On the opposing page (45 in each volume), a creative activity is presented to be attempted either individually or in a group. On these pages, students are encouraged to attempt such activities as role-playing, visiting a museum, writing a myth, a diary entry or a newspaper account of a historical event.
An extremely valuable feature is the double-page Timeline on page 42-43 which highlights the main events in Canadian history from 1000 until the Constitutional Act of 1791. A page entitled "Further Research" lists the two main internet sources for Canadian history: Canada: A People's History and The Canadian Encyclopedia Online. Experienced teachers and librarians will be well aware of the amount of instruction and guidance necessary to ensure successful use of these resources. As well, every volume includes a glossary of words which are important for comprehension and are likely to be unfamiliar to the young reader. These words are quickly accessible as they appear throughout the text in bold print.
There is no doubt that the information in these attractive volumes is presented in a way which will spark the interest of upper-elementary grade students. In the hands of an enthusiastic teacher, the simple, clearly written text sprinkled as it is with first-hand accounts (set off in a lime green border) interspersed with brightly coloured visual material should live up to the claim on the back of each volume that "This series invites readers to develop an understanding of the important people and events that helped shape Canada's development." Elementary teacher-librarians should have no trouble justifying adding the set to their Canadiana collection and bringing it to the attention of teachers working on Canadian history with their students. Middle school/junior high librarians might do well to take a look at the series to determine whether it would be a useful resource for students with special needs.
Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.