Trade Books’ Historical Representation of Anne Sullivan Macy, The Miracle Worker
John H. Bickford III
Katherine A. Silva
Eastern Illinois University
State and national initiatives provide teachers opportunities for interdisciplinary units with increased significance of non-fiction in English Language Arts and decreased reliance on the textbook in history and social studies. In these three disciplines, beginning in elementary school, students are expected to scrutinize multiple trade books of the same event, era, or person to construct understandings. Trade books are a logical curricular link between these three curricula. The initiatives, however, do not prescribe specific curricular materials; teachers rely on their own discretion when selecting available trade books. Historical misrepresentations have been found to emerge within trade books to varying degrees, yet only a few empirical studies have been conducted. We empirically evaluated trade books centered on the Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s teacher. Celebrated as the Miracle Worker, she remains a relatively obscure figure. As a child, Macy faced the desertion or death of every family member and struggled to overcome poverty and isolation. Macy’s story, thus, complements Keller’s in consequential ways. We report various historical misrepresentations within the trade books and provide ancillary primary sources for teachers interested in addressing the historical omissions.
Key words: children’s trade books, Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller, historical thinking, content area literacy, informational texts