CM . . .
. Volume X Number 20 . . . . June 4, 2004
With pioneer life ensconced as a topic in the early years' social studies curriculum, it is not surprising to find the Weigl Educational Publishing firm coming up with a series of information picture books on life in early Canada. Each of the six glossy library bound books in the series is 24 pages long and examines the differences between life today and life in pioneer days. The text is made up of short, easy to read paragraphs interspersed with photographs (most from the National Archives) captions and small nuggets of information encapsulated in a "Did you know?" frame in every chapter.
Each book begins with an introduction which is designed to give children a sense of how different (and indeed, how difficult) it was for the early settlers in Canada. In The Sawmill, Megan Lappi writes:
Following the introduction, each book is made up of nine chapters plus a glossary and index on the last page. Words defined in the glossary appear in bold text throughout the volume. Chapters are short (just a double page spread), and many contain a vivid first-hand account of life in earlier times: One such account comes from Family Life, by Jill Foran:
Five of the books include a chapter entitled "A Day in the Life" (in Family Life, it becomes "A Year in the Life") to give young readers a detailed picture of what daily life was like for Canada's early settlers. An illustrated chapter on tools found in each book should help young readers to identify artifacts they are likely to see on subsequent field trips to a heritage museum.
Each book in the series concludes by presenting a "Then and Now" Venn diagram which helps readers compare and contrast past and present aspects of the topic being discussed. Students are invited to copy the diagram and see if they can come up with other similarities and differences between present day and pioneer times.
The “Early Canadian Life” series may be purchased separately at $22.95 a volume, or at $137.70 for the set. Of the six titles, The Schoolhouse, The General Store and Family Life are those most likely to catch and hold the interests of contemporary youngsters. These books should prove a useful resource for primary teachers and a valuable addition to the elementary school's collection of books on pioneer life for seven to ten year olds.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen resides 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.