By Nyla Lee
History is fundamentally dense in the modern world. From online history hubs to expeditions, we find ways to connect with the past.
Historical fiction is the perfect opportunity to achieve these connections. Not to say that historical fiction has a high significance and impacts deeply on children’s learning.
But before we discuss it further, it is important to know what historical fiction is.
Table of Contents
What is Historical Fiction?
Historical fiction is a genre where fictional situations take place in a historical setting. The setting may be historically accurate or inaccurate, depending on the story’s context.
There are many historical fiction novels that influenced literature without a significant historical focus, such as Gone With The Wind and All The Light We Cannot See.
Why is Historical Fiction Important for Children’s Learning?
Historical fiction may focus primarily on the historical aspect of the story. On the other hand, the historical significance is a backdrop for characters’ personal issues and arcs. But how does it impact children’s literature and their understanding of the world?
Here are three reasons why historical fiction is important for children’s learning.
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Historical Fiction Includes Relatability
Children learn in various ways. From visual to mathematical cues, children acquire skills and knowledge from a myriad of opportunities. However, when it comes to stories, they tend to appreciate a book where characters are relatable.
Historical fiction focuses on potential real-world events and periods. Like in magic and fantasy novels, historical fiction is a genre that requires specific attributes to garner interest from their audience. As a result, having relatable characters can ground a child into the world easily.
In Mark Zusak’s The Book Thief, the protagonist Liesel is a young girl who has an appreciation for books. Many children may relate to her characterization, thus making it easier for them to obtain lessons from the book.
In addition, Liesel remains human and compassionate throughout the novel’s events. Regardless of the devastation and fear surrounding her, she is a human light in the darkness of Germany in 1939.
Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer also has this instance of humanity and relatability within it, making it easier for children to heed to the historical lesson it teaches. The primary issue within the novel is the distant relationship between the three sisters and their mother. However, this plot encircles the significance of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California.
Children seek out content that allows them to feel for characters. And relatability is a primary source of emotional connection. As a result, an emotional connection can aid in better learning opportunities.
Another way to aid in better learning opportunities is taking creative liberties with historical fiction–the next reason why the genre is important for children’s learning.
Historical Fiction Takes Creative Liberties
Historical fiction would not be what it is without a fictional aspect to disrupt the historically accurate setting.
Children’s attention spans vary based on their age. Having an abundance of purely historical information in a book garnered towards children doesn’t succeed with its target audience.
With this in mind, taking creative liberties with historical fiction is a must. For example, Gordon Korman’s Titanic trilogy delves into historical figures and events with a creative twist. From Jack the Ripper boarding the Titanic to an arranged marriage, Korman uses these fictional arcs to adhere to the historical period in an entertaining format.
Also, not all history is pleasant and simple for digesting. This is especially true of children and the way they absorb information.
For example, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has a rather blunt and unfortunate ending that may upset younger audiences. However, it does not make an effort to sugar-coat the experiences the protagonist and his friend endure.
Having discontent and upsetting content through a novel–especially a children’s novel–makes the learning experience difficult for some. This is why having these bits of historically-charged fun can allow children to learn information in a palatable way.
This garners the importance of perspective in historical fiction, which is the third reason why the fiction genre is important for children’s learning.
Historical Fiction Gives Kids Perspective on History
Children’s fiction tends to include important moral themes and messages. Ranging from fantasy and science fiction to mystery and horror, fiction genres give children perspective on several topics.
Historical fiction is no different from these other genres. Many historical fiction novels leave the audience with a message about the morals of a historical event. May it be romantic historical literature, such as The Other Boleyn Girl, or historical dramas like The Book Thief and Milkweed, these books use messaging to relay a historical perspective to their audiences.
The latter books encapsulate the importance of giving children perspective on a historical event. Both taking place during World War II, the novels highlight different sides of the war and its effect on people.
Another example is John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a historical fiction novel surrounding a German boy and his family moving closer to a concentration camp. Save for the relationship between the protagonist and his friend, the story effectively depicts the horrors and consequences of World War II.
Thus, giving children perspective on historical events and time periods allows them to understand the struggles and moral themes of that time.
Reflection on Why Historical Fiction is Important for Children’s Learning
Historical fiction teaches children the significance of the past. It allows them to come close to history in a manner that fits their needs.
Having relatable characters and situations, along with creative outlooks on historical events, helps children adhere to the content historical fiction authors provide.
Children need a foundation where they can expand their knowledge on topics. And using relatability and creative liberties as a means of getting them to learn is a significant means of achieving that goal.