As I mentioned in a previous article, history is normally associated with names or dates, or dusty old texts. However, history is much more than these, because, as a teacher of mine once said, “History is storytelling”. As a result, history can be an interesting discipline because everything has a story to tell. Here are some of the best history books/stories for the young ones, so they can go ahead and find stories that will spark their interest.
Who was Magellan? By Kramer and Wolf
Sydelle Kramer and Elizabeth Wolf’s Who was Magellan? is a great way to introduce the life of Ferdinand Magellan to the kids because it retells his life, his voyage, and even his death in Mactan in a simple and light-hearted way. The kids will be exposed to the way Magellan’s sailors lived, what they ate, and the many times they tried to rebel against him. Thus, they will gain a better understanding of why they behaved the way they did. The book also does not mention that Lapu-Lapu killed Magellan, so it shows the kids the truth early on (Magellan was killed by an unknown Mactan warrior). In short, this text condenses the diary of Pigafetta (the main record of the voyage) into a kid-friendly story.
Looking Back Series by Ambeth Ocampo
Another set of books I would recommend for the kids would be the Looking Back series by the public historian Ambeth Ocampo, and not just because he was one of my teachers. I highly recommend this series because Dr. Ocampo discusses various topics in Philippine history in a language suited for the ordinary reader. In the series, you will find articles on Filipino heroes and villains, old traditions, and even Dr. Ocampo’s language misadventures in Spain. You will even find out that Manila had the Merlion even before the British founded Singapore! Due to this, the kids will realize that history is more than just the big names, but it shapes the way we live our daily lives. After all, traditions have their own stories to tell.
Rizal Without the Overcoat By Ambeth Ocampo
Other than the Looking Back series, Dr. Ocampo’s best work would be Rizal Without the Overcoat, which attempts to look at our national hero, Jose Rizal, without the legend we built around him. The book shares many hidden stories about Rizal, such as how he wrote in English, his teaching days in Dapitan, the books he read, and even his writing style. Also, the book shares many of the secrets of the Noli and Fili, and how we fail to appreciate them as literary works. As a result, this text is good for the kids because it shows them how Rizal was just like us. Also, Dr. Ocampo’s style is just like talking about Rizal to your best friend, so you can be sure that the kids will enjoy his style and choice of words.
Guilt Trip to China (in More Tsinoy Than We Admit) by Richard Chu
The article Guilt Trip to China, by Dr. Richard Chu of Amherst, may seem like an academic article, but it is more of a personal memoir, since it narrates how Dr. Chu grappled with his Chinese-Filipino identity. In this article, you, dear parents and kids, will learn a lot about the Chinese-Filipino experience, from how Chinese schools used to be under the Taiwanese government, up to how Chinese immigrants got around border control by purchasing the identities of others. Also, this article is very relevant to Chinese-Filipinos because it reminds them of how they live the experience of constructing a Chinese-Filipino identity, just like how Dr. Chu did in his trip to China.
It’s Time to Bring Out the Story in History
In the end, it is very important to remove history from the dusty old archives and academic libraries, and bring it to a level the kids can understand. This is because history is not just for academics, but for anyone, for all of us have a story to tell. These four books/stories are an amazing way to introduce history to the kids because they can teach them that history is essentially storytelling. So, keep telling these stories to your kids, and allow them to appreciate the history in everything!