The mission of Sal and Amanda is to make learning history fun and relevant to students’ lives through shared experiences around books.
The National Report Card shows that fewer than 25% of students are “proficient” or “advanced” in American history. The other 75% received a less than proficient mark. This is alarming! Some, however, question whether history is even worth teaching and if it will help today’s students in the workplace when they arrive there.
According to the CNN article, “If Students Fail History, Does it Matter?” most educators and many parents agree that history should teach students how to research and make well informed decisions. After all, these students are our voters of tomorrow. Diane Ravitch, a New York University research professor of education, stated, “They should be well informed and capable of weighing the contending claims of candidates, especially when the candidates rest their arguments on historical precedent.” The philosopher, George Santayana, said it best, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Reasons offered for such dismal scores fall into three major categories. First, students are disinterested. Second, the way history is tested, asking primarily rote facts, is a problem because it is difficult for students to retain so many names, dates, and details. The information often seems irrelevant to them. Finally, No Child Left Behind has pushed history in the background in favor of reading, math, and science.
Jacob Soboroff, CNN guest columnist, asked some of the best and brightest young minds that did well on the national history tests how the teaching of history should be improved. They agreed on two things. First, history should be fun. Second, students should be helped to understand that it is all about people just like them.
The Sal and Amanda books focus on both these elements. They make history fun because the facts are told in stories that are playful and exciting. The stories also explain how the events are related to the students that are reading them. They offer examples of why things are the way they are today, and explain that the people in history were people just like them. We create history each day that we live. Children are challenged in the Sal and Amanda books and activities to think about the stories their lives are creating. Parents and teachers are challenged to share these book experiences with children.
The article referenced above can be seen on the CNN website.