There are many times in a calendar year to celebrate America’s freedom, but February is an especially fitting time. Schools and libraries commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington by sponsoring special activities on President’s Day. These activities need to go beyond the clichéd stories of Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and Lincoln walking three miles to return 6 ¼ cents to a woman. Most children are fascinated by Washington’s legendary wooden false teeth, and Lincoln’s stovepipe hat, but they need to know what these men stood for. Tell them that it was on February 1, 1865 that Lincoln signed a resolution that led to the 13th amendment which abolished slavery. This is why our nation has declared February 1 as National Freedom Day. Here are programming ideas for celebrating Washington and Lincoln, and Freedom Day:
- Ask readers to jot down what they know about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Have them work in small groups and use books in the library or sites on the Internet to find additional information about the two Presidents. Such books may include:
George Washington’s Birthday (picture book) by Margaret McNamara & illus. by Barry Blitt
Meet George Washington (Landmark easy readers) by Joan Heilbroner & illus. by Stephen Marchesi
Meet Abraham Lincoln (Landmark easy reader) by Barbara Cary & illus. by Stephen Marchesi
The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary (middle grade) by Candace Fleming
- Take a virtual field trip of George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon (George Washington’s Mount Vernon Website) and Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois (Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site). What do you learn about the men by visiting their homes?
- Take the information learned from the virtual field trip and write a one-page story about Washington and Lincoln for a book like The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History (all ages) by Jennifer Armstrong & illus. by Roger Roth.
- Older readers may enjoy researching places named for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Is there a place in your state named for one of the men?
- Take a virtual field trip of the Lincoln Memorial (Lincoln Memorial Virtual Tour) and the Washington Monument (Washington Monument Virtual Tour). Have readers make a set of 10 trivia cards about each monument. Test classmates or family members. How well did they do?
- Ask readers to prepare an annotated list of books that would be appropriate to sell in the gift shop of George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon and Lincoln’s home in Springfield. Suggestions from Random House include:
I Have a Dream (picture book) by Martin Luther King, Jr. & illus. by Kadir Nelson
My Dream of Martin Luther King (picture book) by Faith Ringgold
Only Passing Through (picture book) by Anne Rockwell & illus. by Gregory Christie
Escape North: The Story of Harriet Tubman (early reader) by Monica Kulling & illus. by Teresa Flavin
Crow (middle grade) by Barbara Wright
Toliver’s Secret (middle grade) by Esther Wood Brady
Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (young adult) by Virginia Hamilton
North by Night (middle grade) by Katherine Ayers
Trouble Don’t Last (middle grade) by Shelley Pearsall
Stealing Freedom (young adult) by Elise Carbone
Storm Warriors (young adult) by Elise Carbone
Woods Runner (young adult) by Gary Paulsen
- Sponsor an essay contest for older readers called “Washington & Lincoln: Fathers of Freedom.” Instruct them to use and cite five sources to support their ideas.