Trade Books’ Historical Representation of Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the World
John H. Bickford III
Taylor A. Badal
Eastern Illinois University
Contemporary education initiatives require English language arts educators spend half their time on non-fiction and history and social studies teachers to include diverse sources. Beginning in the early grades within the aforementioned curricula, students are to scrutinize multiple texts of the same historical event, era, or figure. Whereas trade books are a logical curricular resource for English language arts and history and social studies curricula, the education mandates do not provide suggestions. Research indicates trade books are rife with historical misrepresentations, yet few empirical studies have been completed so more research is needed. Our research examined the historical representation of Eleanor Roosevelt within trade books for early and middle-grades students. Identified historical misrepresentations included minimized or omitted accounts of the societal contexts and social relationships that shaped Mrs. Roosevelt’s social conscience and civic involvement. Effective content spiraling, in which complexity and nuance increase with grade level, between early and middle-grades trade books did not appear. Pedagogical suggestions included ways to position students to identify the varying degrees of historical representation within different trade books and integrate supplementary primary sources to balance the historical gaps.
Key Words: Children’s trade books, young adult literature, Eleanor Roosevelt, historical representation, primary sources, informational texts