In the latest issue of Jet Magazine (February 6, 2012), Iman Jefferson gets six tips from Ronda Racha Penrice, author of African American History For Dummies, on ways to educate and entertain children with history. These tips are specific to Black History Month — that doesn’t mean you have to be an African-American to learn more about Black history. Nor should this be limited to Black History Month, or even Black history; there’s a lot of history to learn!
The first tip was to record family members about their experiences during a pivotal time in history. We’ve been making general (not historical event oriented) audio recordings of our own family members — and both my husband and I have been flabbergasted to find out how much we really didn’t know about even our own parents’ lives! (If you need help starting, check out StoryCorps.)
The second was to “play the original song versions used in samples of your kids’ favorite hits” and discuss what melodies have been borrowed from yesteryear. Our kids tease us about the music we listen to (admittedly we are eclectic listeners!) and we tease them right back with information about how that music isn’t “new.” These discussions, however intended, have given our children a wider knowledge of music, culture and history than most of their peers.
Tip number three:
Identify longstanding Black-owned restaurants, retail shops or other companies, then call them up and arrange a visit. Many will have older equipment, as well as photos, so it will encourage interactive learning.
I’m so ready for a field trip!
The next tip was to challenge kids to find items in the home or community which were invented or created by African-American icons featured on postage stamps. This is a great idea, like a historical philately-based scavenger hunt!
Tip number five was to have your child research a person prior to watching a biopic and then have them compare what they read to what they saw. I can tell you that I’ve personally done this dozens of times, including performing online searches during the commercial breaks when watching biographies and biopics on TV. (In fact, I just did this last week watching a biopic about Jessica Savitch!)
The last tip was actually quite a mind-blower…
Often we drive by local honorary street signs in predominantly African American neighborhoods but may not know the history of each honoree. Visit the local library and have your children research the real person behind the road marker.
Honest to gawd, hubby and I had just had a similar, though not person-related, discussion when he “discovered” the location of a “missing city.” He’s a prolific reader of old newspapers and read about one no longer on maps: Golden Gate City, in South Dakata. There’s a Golden Gate Street in Central City, South Daktoa, but sans town we bet there are people living there who don’t even know why the street has it’s name. How many streets do we all drive on of which we are ignorant to the street’s name’s origins?