October 9, 2012

Helping History Survive: Resources for Teens Who Love History

Reenactments and living history museums tend to be full of families that love history. Mom and Dad show their kids how cool history is and a young age and their interest in history grows on its own. Recently I have noticed a trend in the older generation retiring. They are selling their historical clothing and promising that they will now spend their time relaxing and playing with the grandkids instead of playing in the field.  That may mean that the toddlers of today will be historians tomorrow. But as for right now, the current youth doesn’t seem to be replacing the veterans.

 I didn’t have a family into history. So I know how hard it is. I couldn’t participate in events until I was in college. I didn’t have the money or the means to get to events, but I did know what I was missing. In Middle School, a homeschool family was nice enough to take me to a living history museum with their daughter.  They knew that I liked history and it was such a kind offer. 

It’s hard to imagine, but families not into history don’t really know what’s out there. My family knew I liked history but they didn’t really know there was history stuff available. Unfortunately, once we found out stuff was available, most things were only open to children, if their parents participated and were there to watch them.  My parents both worked so history events went on the backburner until college. 

So what can be done to encourage the new generation? For starters, if you have the means to bring young people along with you, please do. That can mean a lot to a child or teen that loves history. If you can’t bring someone to far away events, try local events or town history days.   

One of my fondest memories from Middle School was that my friend invited me over to make costumes for a trip to the Renaissance fair.  We went to the fabric store and found a pattern that we liked and we bought broadcloth. We spent a whole day laughing and sewing and ended up with some badly sewn but wearable dresses. On the day of the trip, we felt like the belles of the ball. 

If you don’t have the means to take others with you, try to make your materials available to them.  Lend out the historical fiction that is probably collecting dust most of the year. See if your local library has good books you could suggest to a teen. Really any little thing could keep that passion going. 

If you are a young person into history but have no way of participating in any history events, spend this time feeding your interest. If you go to school, use the library to read books on the subjects you like. Listen to history related podcasts and watch videos.  Don’t let your passion die. When people find out that I am a reenactor they generally tell me that they used to love history but their interest waned in their teen years when many other things seemed more important. 

Utilize what you do have at your disposal. Ask the librarian for books on the subject you are interested in. Ask your teachers at school for information on a topic you find interesting. Use the internet to find information. The important thing is to keep feeding your interest.
Resources for teens who love history:



Historical Fiction:

- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
-  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (Free Online Ebook.)
-Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix


-To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
-The Civil War Chronicle by William C. Davis
-The Reenactor’s Handbook by
- Hardtack and Coffee by John D. Billings (Free Online Ebook.) This one was written by a Civil War veteran about army life. It has great images.
-Johnny Reb and Billy Yank by Alexander Hunter. This is a long but entertaining read written by a Civil War veteran. (Free Online Ebook.)

What are your suggestions? How can the history field do to make it more beginner friendly or what can be done to encourage people who can't participate? 


  1. You and I must be kindred spirits for we think an awful lot a like!
    This is an excellent posting that needs to be read (I am posting it to my facebook page).
    I grew up similar to you except there were virtually no reenactors or reenacting anywhere near where I was while growing up, and it was unfortunate that I didn't get the chance to go to historical places very often until after I became an adult. Before driving age it was a whole lot of reading.
    Great post - thanks!

  2. Thanks Ken! It's something I am seeing while teaching. There are kids who are really interested in history but don't really have any ways of perusing it further.

  3. I'm not really a re-enactor myself (so far...), so I don't have a good idea... but I think small, local events are a good way. It just depends on whether there are any around! The event in my hometown only started the year I graduated from Grammar school.
    I also think things are much easier now with the internet and so many people posting on blogs and events having their webpages and such. You can kind of participate even though you do not really participate. Case in point: me.

    1. I think you are right. It's much easier today than when I was in school. The internet is much more extensive and helpful now.

  4. I found your blog a few months ago and have found it quite interesting! I have an award for you on my blog!

  5. I agree that people need to learn more about history, especially the younger generation. I admit my own knowledge of history could be better - although I love learning about election history...adore it! I remain optimistic that youth are appreciating and learning about history more.

    I haven't met you in person Stephanie - and live far away from you - but I can assure you that I do appreciate the interest and work you put into history! :)


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