Through the vivid first-person accounts, the most thrilling--and terrifying--events of the past 100 years come to life in his age-appropriate volume adapted from the bestseller "The Century."
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The Century for Young People by Peter Jennings & Todd Brewster covers each decade of the 20th century--the events, the people, and the important technological developments that have shaped our nation in the past 100 years.
In chronological chapters, this nonfiction account of the 20th century celebrates each decade with vivid, first-person accounts of memorable moments and over 200 photographs from national archives and personal collections. It reveals the excitement and plight of the immigrants as they entered the United States in the early 1900s. It introduces the United States as a world power in World War I and details the suffering of a nation during the Great Depression. It takes readers from the battlefields of World War II to the Persian Gulf crisis. It is people at work and people at play. It is history as it was lived.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Peter Jennings is anchor and senior editor of ABC News' World News Tonight. In more than thirty-five years as a broadcast journalist, he has covered many of the pivotal events of the century.
Todd Brewster was the Senior Editorial Producer of ABC's The Century. He is a contributing editor at Life magazine and a senior producer for ABC news.
Before introducing The Century for Young People to your class, page through the book to decide how best to use it:
Chapter by Chapter--
The chronological approach allows students to see history unfold as they learn how it affects today's world.
Hearing the words of those who have lived through history-making events brings the 20th century to life. The personal stories are great to read aloud and will inspire students to explore their own family's experiences.
A Photographic Journey--
Studying and discussing the one-of-a-kind photos from archives and personal collections puts a face on the 20th century.
The opening words of The Century for Young People are "For generations, people have looked forward to a new century with both hope and nervousness: What will the new age bring?" (p. 3). The book closes with "It is hope that carries us forward into the unknown territory we will explore in the next century" (p. 241). Ask students to write down their hopes for the 21st century. How will life be different? Discuss the role of technology in making their hopes a reality.
Social Studies-- Divide the class into groups and assign each group one of the following wars to research: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf Crisis. Ask them to find out how the United States became involved in each of these wars. Then have each group prepare on-the-spot television news stories for the day the United States entered the war and the day the war ended. Include interviews with the President of the United States, military officers, and citizens. Have students use war memories from personal stories in the book, like that of Larry Gwin (p. 175).
"There was no point during my year in Vietnam when I realized that the U.S. had made a mistake and that we shouldn't have been there. But I also know in my heart that any American soldier...didn't have to stay there long before he knew that there was something wrong with our presence there."
Immigration is a big part of U.S. history. Ask students to interview family members to find out how their families came to the United States. Have them write stories similar to the first-person accounts in The Century for Young People and then share these stories with the rest of the class.
In the early part of the 20th century, unlike today, the poor could not get aid from the government and there were few social programs to help them. Ask students to discuss what President John F. Kennedy meant when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" (p. 159). How did the formation of the Peace Corps represent Kennedy's philosophy? Have students research volunteer programs in their community. How are such programs funded? Have students who volunteer discuss their groups' goals with the class.
Language Arts--Betty Broyles, born in 1919, states, "In the days before the car and the radio, we found ways to amuse ourselves. I always loved to read, and that was a very important source of entertainment, particularly in the winter" (p. 44). Ask students to select the decade in the 20th century that most interests them and read a novel set during that time. (You may want to use the list at the end of this guide or search the Internet to preselect titles.) How does the novel reflect life during that period? Instruct students to write a letter to the main character of the novel telling her or him about life at the end of the 20th century.
There are many unforgettable characters in The Century for Young People. Ask students to select a personality whom they most admire. (There are many choices, from Theodore Roosevelt to Martin Luther King, Jr.) Encourage them to do further research and write an article about that person. Students may also select an eyewitness to write about.
The Century for Young People states, "There is still no communications tool more powerful than the family story" (p. 241). Have students ask an older relative or friend to share a special family story. Encourage students to read their stories in class.
Science-- The 20th century might well be known as "the century of new technology." Ask the class to construct a time line that reveals the development of technology from 1900 to the present. Then have each student research one of the technologies for an oral and visual presentation on how the technology changed society. Encourage them to use the personal statements in the book, such as Mabel Griep's memories of watching the Wright brothers in flight (p. 3) and Stacy Horn's thoughts on the Internet (p.235), to express how people reacted to the new technology.
"[Communicating on the Internet is] actually better than a live conversation.... you can take your time and really consider your thoughts and say something more substantial."
Medical discoveries during the 20th century have been crucial. Ask students to identify the most deadly diseases that threatened the lives of people in the early part of the century. What diseases are considered the greatest threat to our society today? What is the purpose of the National Center for Disease Control? How does the Federal Drug Administration affect health care in the United States? What is the role of the Surgeon General?
Math--Ask students to use the Internet or a world almanac to find statistics on the number of immigrants that entered the United States in each decade of the twentieth century. Have them graph their findings. What nationality is the largest immigrant population today? How is this different from the early 1900s? The 1960s and 1970s?
Create a graph with five bars comparing the number of soldiers that were killed during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf Crisis. Total all the deaths represented on the graph. For students to comprehend the overall impact of the wars' casualties, have them imagine that all are buried in a single cemetery and compare the overall size (estimate that a grave is 3 feet wide by 7 feet long) to something accessible, e.g. the size of a country or a portion of the United States. Prompt a discussion of this comparison. It will help them grasp the enormity of war's toll.x
Art--The World's Fair in New York City in 1939-40 introduced visitors to television, nylon stockings, robots, and man-made lighting. Gilda Snow remembers seeing the life-changing inventions exhibited at the fair (p. 93), where one motto was "I have seen the future." Ask students to think about inventions that may change the lives of people in the 21st century and to design a poster called "I predict the future."
"There was a television demonstration where this man would film you. And to see your picture on the screen, well, that was just unbelievable....I was just in awe of the whole thing." --Gilda Snow
Drama--The Century for Young People includes many poignant first-person testimonials by people who experienced or witnessed events such as the Holocaust, the civil rights movement, and the assassination of world leaders. Other accounts share memories of good times with family and friends or the excitement of new inventions. How does each personal story reflect the larger picture of changes in the 20th century? Ask each student to select one of the personal testimonials in the book and prepare it for reader's theater. Have the class deliver the readings chronologically.
Music--The Hit Parade was a popular radio and television program in the 1940s and 1950s. >American Bandstand was a popular television dance show started in the 1950s. Ask students to find out what hit songs were featured on these shows. Locate some recordings of the songs to play in class. Then have the class contrast those songs with the hits of today, noting how music reflects the culture of the times. Discuss whether Bunny Gibson's feelings about the music of her teenage years (p. 147) are true for teenagers today.
"Rock and roll was music from the heart and the soul that gave us a feeling of freedom."
FDR's Four Freedoms
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear
Freedom of belief
Freedom of expression
President Roosevelt's World War II goals gave the American people hope. He called his goals the Four Freedoms: freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of belief, and freedom of expression. Ask students to explain each of these freedoms. Corneal Davis remembers a speech by Woodrow Wilson during World War I: "Right is more precious than peace. We will fight for the things we carry nearest our heart" (p.32). How do Wilson's words and Roosevelt's Four Freedoms represent the hopes of Americans throughout the century? How are Americans continuing the fight for these freedoms in their daily lives? Discuss what responsibilities come with freedom. Ask students to use pictures from magazines to construct a collage that expresses Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.
Courage and Honor--Define courage. How is courage related to fear? John F. Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles in Courage. How does it take courage to be president of the United States? Discuss which presidents in the twentieth century displayed the most courage. After students compare and contrast the courage of people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., with that of people like the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh, have them find examples of "ordinary" people whose eyewitness stories demonstrate courage.
Hope--Alfred Levitt, an immigrant from Russia, remembers his feelings on the day he entered the United States. He writes, "As we approached New York Harbor I saw the Statue of Liberty, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of hope for a beautiful life in a new nation" (p. 5). Discuss what America offered the Levitt family that they couldn't have in Russia. How has the Statue of Liberty been a symbol of hope for immigrants throughout the 20th century? If possible, have students interview several immigrants in their community. Ask them what they were hoping to find when they came to the United States. Were their hopes fulfilled?
Fear--At the beginning of the 20th century, people faced many unknowns. Ask the class to contrast the fears that people expressed through each decade of the century. How are today's fears different from the fears of earlier generations? How has the media changed what people fear? Ask students to interview their parents and neighbors about their fears for the future. Encourage students to share the results of their interviews in class. Then discuss whether it is possible to live a life without fear. Allow students to talk about ways of dealing with fear.
Prejudice--Prejudice against other ethnic groups has existed throughout the 20th century. Charles Rohleder has vivid memories of how immigrants were treated. He says, "There was a Greek family next door to us, and we used to make fun of them because they were immigrants and they spoke a language we didn't understand" (p.10). Discuss with your class the prejudice that existed against the immigrants of the early 1900s. Why were the immigrants considered a threat to American citizens?
Read Inez Jessie Baskin's personal account of the Montgomery bus boycott (p.153). Compare the prejudice shown toward African Americans in the 1950s to the way the immigrants were treated at the beginning of the century. Share Anne Thompson's personal remarks about the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas (p.156). How do her remarks reveal that prejudice is a learned behavior? Ask the class to think about what an individual can do to help combat prejudice and bigotry in our nation.
Patriotism--Ask students to write down the meaning of patriotism. Leon Despres, who was nine years old during World War I, describes American sentiment at the time as "superpatriotic" (p.33). Laura Smith, a nurse in World War I, remembers, "We were sent down to New York, where we marched in a parade wearing our nurse uniforms. Everyone waved their flags and applauded as we went by; there was so much enthusiasm for the war" (p.36). Neil Shine remembers his childhood during World War II: "There was this thing called 'the war effort' that took on a life of its own; you had to be doing something for it" (p. 108). Compare these accounts with the American reaction to the Vietnam War. Ask the class to debate whether protesting a war should be considered patriotic or unpatriotic.
Vocabulary / Use of Language
The vocabulary in The Century for Young People is not difficult, but there are words that may be unique to the events of each decade. Ask students to identify unfamiliar words and try to define them using clues from the text. Such words may include: bourgeoisie (p. 5), promenade (p. 5), homogeneous (p. 10), itinerant (p. 14), suffragists (p.15), cynics (p. 158), arrogance (p. 162), and activists (p. 178).
Teaching ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Media Services, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.
xMath activity on war written by Patty Campbell, author of Presenting Robert Cormier and 1989 winner of the American Library Association's Grolier Award for distinguished service to young adults and libraries.
"Smooth and readable. If at all possible, buy two copies, one for the reference shelf and one for kids to take home and explore." --Starred, School Library Journal
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