Elementary Classroom Libraries and Social Studies Trade Books

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Purpose – Standards and policy changes in K-12 education have created the unintended consequence of reducing instructional time spent on social studies content. This limited time devoted to social studies presumably has led to more integrated social studies and literacy instruction. The purpose of this paper is to document the types of high-quality social studies children’s books found in classroom libraries across five states.

Design/methodology/approach – In the present mixed methods study, the researchers utilized a database of 60 classroom libraries across five states to identify which high-quality trade books, defined by the National Council for the Social Studies, were present. The researchers document trends in both frequencies of books and social studies content across decades, classrooms, grade levels and states from 1972 to 2015.

Findings – The findings indicate that National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Notable Trade Books for Young People texts are largely missing from the elementary classroom libraries the researchers sampled. Of the 5,544 unique titles included on the NCSS lists from 1972 to 2015, 453 were located in the US classroom libraries database, representing 8.17 percent of books found on the notable lists.

Originality/value – Before teachers can take steps toward integrating social studies and literacy, they need easy access to high-quality social studies texts. Many high-quality trade books are recommended each year for exposing students to social studies content; however, the researchers found limited numbers of these books in classroom libraries. The researchers recommend the lists be circulated to a wider audience to inform more teachers about these texts.