Bruce Cole, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted: “Only by understanding our rich and complex history – with its proud and not so proud moments, with its great leaders and simple everyday heroes – can we strengthen what holds us together and create ‘unum’ from ‘pluribus.’ Without a solid understanding of history, our next generation of leaders will lack the critical understanding of what brought our nation to where it is now.”
Certainly, at this hour in our nation’s history, one which most are referring to as “deeply divided,” we MUST focus ALL our energy on the dissemination and discussion of such “rich, complex” history.
The NCBLA is ready and charged! Our organization’s most “rich and complex” project is the highly lauded children’s book – OUR WHITE HOUSE: LOOKING IN, LOOKING OUT – a publication which speaks to “great leaders and simple everyday leaders,” no doubt! Let’s revisit how the book will prove perfect for educators, librarians, and literacy leaders as they now, hopefully, emphasize history and civics lessons.
The book’s beginnings mirror our country’s own – speaking to the great leaders Adams and Jefferson, but also everyday heroes – White House masons, the slaves who built The White House itself, and even an animal hero, a prairie dog!
Do most children understand the White House once burned (later rebuilt)? If not, they can read about heroes President James and First Lady Dolley Madison, as well as the free colored man who warned the Madisons of the fire, James Smith, and the doorkeeper and gardener who saved President Washington’s portrait (John Suse’ and Magraw).
Do children understand the brilliant minds, from near and far, who have visited the People’s House? If not, discover Charles Dickens impression of our great House – “more like an English club-house, both within and without…” Do kids understand how close the Confederate Army came to “sacking” the White House and Capitol Building? If not, they will discover the eyewitness account of Mary Henry, dated July, 1864, a description of just how close!
How about an understanding of who encouraged preservation of public lands? None other than Jean Craighead George explains Theodore Roosevelt’s work “to pass legislation protecting the incredible natural resources of America.” Or an understanding of our country’s four basic freedoms, as expounded by Franklin D. Roosevelt: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. The child reader will find text and illustrations within Our White House which explain these freedoms to the “tee.” And, certainly we need an understanding of the contributions from women who insured rights for ALL humans, Alice Paul and Eleanor Roosevelt. Yes, NCBLA’s Our White House tells their story as well!
In fact, Our White House takes the young reader into the modern day, helping with understandings as to George W. Bush’s decisions following 9/11 and the impetus behind our annual National Book Festival (thanks First Lady Laura Bush).
Calling on ALL literacy leaders! Support this book, rich in stellar text and heavy illustrations, a literary and artistic resource which heeds Cole’s call to spread understanding of our history, where we have been, where we hope to go! If you do, we can update its pages to include 44, 45, and, as of January 20, 2021, 46!