American Cultural Literacy


Connie Goldin © 2011, Mom to Madre

American Cultural Literacy is the knowledge of our history, important events, songs, stories, literature and speeches that form the tapestry of our nation. It begins with recognizing the words, names and titles associated with our nationally treasured icons and brings a person more into the culture of the U.S. There are many wonderful books for children on American history from different angles and viewpoints for various age groups. Reading and talking with your children are fun and easy ways to share this important and interesting information.

The summer months are a great time to think about American Cultural Literacy. We start with Memorial Day in May. We celebrate the 4th of July with the local parades and fireworks. Then we end the summer with Labor Day, which is not a patriotic day, but is part of our cultural experience. Next thing you know, school has begun again and everyone is busy. Here are some ideas for summer learning about America’s history and culture for families.

Every child and adult should know the Pledge of Allegiance and the correct words to our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. No faking allowed. I remember recently seeing a world famous opera singer, at a football game singing the National Anthem, glance at her hand on which she had written the song’s words. I knew she sings entire operas in different languages, yet she wasn’t sure enough of the words to the Star Spangled Banner. Perhaps she needed more practice singing it as a kid? Patriotic songs and about the American experience give the history lessons in a fun way. There are many wonderful CDs for kids that families can play in the car and get everyone singing.

A visit to Washington D.C., Boston, or Williamsburg is a fabulous way to bring American history to life. With the Internet, you can visit these places without leaving home. Simply introducing the names of these places, documents, people and events to your kids adds new vocabulary that they will remember learning from you. Let’s perpetuate the knowledge of these documents, songs, speeches and momentous events so hard fought for by our ancestors. If you belong to two cultures, share them both with your children. You will be all the richer for it.

Here is a list of important American documents and words that everyone should be familiar with. They are the markers of events that shaped our nation and made this nation what it is today.

American Cultural Literacy Basics

The Pledge of Allegiance

Star Spangled Banner

The Constitution of the United States of America

The Bill of Rights

The Declaration of Independence

Preamble to the Constitution

The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

Emancipation Declaration

Profiles of the American Presidents

Abraham Lincoln

Here are some ideas for learning about our nation with your kids.

Liberty!: How the Revolutionary War Began (Landmark Books) [Paperback]
by Lucille Recht Penner (Author), David Wenzel (Illustrator)

America’s Black Founders By Nancy I. Saunders

Patriotic songs Wee Sing America

Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz
(illustrated by Tomie dePaola)

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