Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Cobblestone Magazine is advertised for grades four through nine. It's all about American history. Because there are so many controversial and delicate topics covered, I would encourage parents to think carefully about whether a younger child is prepared to read and discuss Cobblestone articles. Gifted readers under eight who may be fine with the vocabulary and serious tone of the articles may be too sensitive to be exposed to the often dark content. Recent sample issues covered D-day and the Allied invasion of Normandy, Ken Burns and his documentary on World War II, and John F. Kennedy.
The D-Day issue includes a photo of a fallen soldier and the remark, “Omaha Beach was littered with smashed vehicles and dead and dying men.” This issue also has a great map of the invasion plan, military statistics, and profiles of key players in the war. Churchill, F.D.R., Stalin, Eisenhower, and Hitler are among those covered. There are also stories on code breaking, engineering marvels, spies, and clever deceptions. An interview with Buck Compton, real life hero portrayed in Spielberg and Hanks' “Band of Brothers” film, is another highlight.
The issue on Ken Burns mentions the Bataan Death March and civilian families held for years in a Manila prison camp. Ken Burns has done a fabulous job of documenting so much important American History. I am excited to see an entire issue devoted to his work. His passion for history really helps to bring it alive and allows kids to understand that it's much more than a bunch of dates to memorize.
The Cobblestone issue devoted to John F. Kennedy is well balanced and fair. There is a story about his childhood, another about his experience with PT 109, and then a look at his campaign and the first televised Presidential debate. A presidential time line details his time in office and there are articles on the cold war, Cuban missile crisis, and his assassination. An interview with Caroline Kennedy informs readers about the JFK Library and the Profiles in Courage award.
These issues are jammed with factual accounts, interviews, and terrific photos, as well as theme related crossword puzzles, cartoons, and “brain ticklers” which are actually short quizzes based on the content of the current issue. Contests encourage readers to submit their own versions of World War II posters,
or to nominate a local good citizen. Real kids offer reviews of theme related web sites and books. There are also suggestions on places to visit, such as the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and in Washington D.C. The publisher maintains teacher's guides online at www.cobblestonepub.com .
I heartily recommend Cobblestone both to schools and individual families wishing to encourage children to appreciate and respect American history. If we don't pay attention to the past, how can we learn from it?