"Read," White, and True Blue: Being American


Before answering the question of what does it mean to be American, readers first answer questions about things that are American (like fast food and fireworks). These answers ("no") set the stage for a broader discussion of the essence of being American using ideas and describing activities in ways that kids not only understand but can see in themselves. With help from the guided questions at the back, readers can deepen discussions about Constitutional concepts and conservation, as well as citizenship and personal conduct. 

Parent Perspective:
Love this book and can easily see it as becoming part of a family Fourth of July celebration. Young readers will readily see themselves in the diversity of cultures represented in pictures. The authors have done a superb job in describing the various elements that comprise American-ness. I especially like how they enmesh abstract and concrete ideas. For example, young children can easily recognize both Thanksgiving (an event) and family (concrete idea) as well as the abstractions of unity and celebration associated with the holiday. Without using the word "citizenship," the book explains what that is and our responsibilities as citizens.

My one wish is that the book had more directly addressed the idea of freedom of thought. The story explains that as Americans we can change our mind, choose our own belief system, and appreciate that "difference make us kinder." But it doesn't explicitly say having different opinions or ideas is Okay, that disagreement doesn't make someone less American, and that being open and listening to other ideas is also American. Maybe it's because of our current climate, but I can see some readers interpreting the idea of "the obligation to help others [be their best self]" as a rationale for rigidity; as in, you are obliged to agree with me

That said, because of the way the book is written, it is easy for me to incorporate my "wishes" into our family discussions about the book.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Wonderful illustrations help solidify for readers abstract concepts about the things that make someone an American. Young readers can easily relate to the examples of American-ness and will see themselves, their family, and their community.

Content Awareness Factors:

Need to allow time to draw out freedom of expression and being open to others' opinions and ideas. 

Type of Book:
This picture book uses everyday activities and abstract ideas to illustrate the concept of what it means to be an American.
Educational Themes:

Don't skip the material in the back. The authors have provided a page-by-page breakdown of the different concepts AND included discussion questions. Included with this information are lists of successful Americans, representing different cultures, backgrounds, and fields of study. Young readers probably know Simone Biles, but probably don't know Grace Hopper. Use these lists as a launching pad for additional reading. Focus on a topic that interests your child, and ask a librarian for a youth version of biographies or histories that tap into that passion.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
8 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
4 to 12
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. This is a picture book that with themes that will grow as your child grows. Don't let a preteen tell you it's "for babies" because it is a picture book. The ideas will be most valuable to them!

Title What Does It Mean to Be American?

What Does It Mean to Be...? Series

Author Rana DiOrio, Elad Yoran
Publisher Sourcebooks | Little Pickle Press © 2019
Illustrators Nina Mata
ISBN 9781492683803
Material Hard Cover
Cost $17.99
Genres Emotions and Feelings, Concepts (general)
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