This eleven-volume treatment of U.S. history has garnered lots of attention and many fans. A History of US is very well written, presenting history more as a series of stories rather than a recitation of facts. The storytelling approach, along with the fact that there is only one author, tends to make the content more subjective than we find in most textbooks. While this makes it more opinionated and more interesting, it can also be more controversial.
This series is great for reading aloud, even with junior high students. If students read the books on their own, parents should also read them and be prepared to discuss alternate points of view on various topics. (Beautiful Feet Books provides an excellent example of how to do this. They incorporate one of these books into their Modern American and World History: A Literature Approach for Intermediate Grades, suggesting controversial topics that should be discussed.)
The books are heavily illustrated with drawings, maps, and photos. Many of these are black and white, with some full-color images.
The ten primary titles in the series are:
- The First Americans
- Making Thirteen Colonies
- From Colonies to Country
- The New Nation
- Liberty for All?
- War, Terrible War
- Reconstructing America
- An Age of Extremes
- War, Peace, and All That Jazz
- All the People (last updated in 2010 to bring history from 1945 up to 2009)
An eleventh volume, Sourcebook and Index, has 94 source documents from United States history plus commentary on those documents, a list of presidents, a glossary, and an index to the entire series.
Oxford University Press has a series of teaching guides for the first ten volumes. The teaching guides have one lesson plan for every chapter of the pertinent volume. The lesson plans include activities for vocabulary, map work, comprehension, critical thinking, composition, research, and projects. There are also instructions for using the primary source documents from the eleventh volume. Oxford University Press also publishes A History of US Assessment Book: Books 1-10 that coordinates with the teaching guides. I haven’t seen the assessment book, but the website says, “A portion of the questions assess knowledge of key facts and chronology. The rest of the questions require students to use critical thinking skills such as making comparisons, synthesizing information, and drawing conclusions.”
You can purchase individual books, a set with the first ten volumes, or a set with all 11 volumes.
The only problem is how to fit so many books into your schedule. You can use them over a number of years or just use selected books. Either way, they are bound to give students a more positive attitude toward the study of history.