Teaching History and Social Studies with Fiction


Fiction?! Does fiction have a place in the facts-driven world of History and Social Studies classes? There is, through historical fiction!

Historical fiction is a genre of literature with a story set in the past and typically features real-life people and events. With forms including novels, picture books, and comics, historical fiction is a popular genre of books written for kids and teens.

There are already numerous studies that emphasize the benefits of utilizing historical fiction in the History and Social Studies classes. Four of the most important ones are below.

  1. Historical fiction is an entertaining and engaging read for children. While children usually associate textbooks with schoolwork, works of fiction are usually for pleasure and leisure. So, historical fiction can serve as a breather in between their information heavy and serious textbooks. A lot of historical fiction titles also employ humor and sprinkle interesting trivia in the story. The illustrations too in some book forms easily catch children’s attention, so 12:01 and Isang Harding Papel, both set during the Martial Law period, will definitely be a hit for children.
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  2. Historical fiction provides an in-depth description of people’s lives in the past. Because most history textbooks aim on covering as many topics as possible, important individuals, places, and events are usually reduced to a few sentences. With historical fiction, however, children can imagine what places looked like in the past and how people lived, talked, dressed, and so on. More so with historical fiction in picture book forms, since these provide illustrations of the actual objects, places, and people of a certain period. The Batang Historyador picture books, for instance, are filled with illustrations on five periods in Philippine history.
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  3. Historical fiction presents the complexity of historical events. We all know how complex lives are whether in the past or today, but many textbooks just present history as single-sided and one-dimensional. Historical fiction tries to break this misconception by exposing readers to multiple perspectives. Children, for example, get to see the different sides of a historical character’s actions and decisions and how these were different from the other characters. In the novel Woman in a Frame, readers can journey to two time periods through the eyes of Sining Librado and Marcela Simbulan.
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  4. Historical fiction, lastly, allows children to connect with historical persons. Having an in-depth and broad view of a historical event can develop in readers empathy, a key aspect in making informed decisions. The good thing too with historical fiction written for children is that it usually features children as protagonists, so present readers can easily relate to people in the past. In Si Ambongan, for instance, the story of Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in Mactan is told through the experience of the boy Ambongan.

And to smoothly include historical fiction in class, teachers should note that historical fiction only serves as a supplementary reading material to historical texts, such as biographies and documents. Children should also be taught how to distinguish the fictive from the factual elements in a historical fiction work.

* All the books mentioned above are currently on sale at the Adarna House bookshops (online and Quezon City) and will also be available at Christmas sale prices during A Christmas Treat for Readers.

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