Well, here I am at Neil Armstrong Elementary School sharing about slavery and the Underground Railroad. When I first started writing Dark Enough to See the Stars, I didn’t realize how my book, or any other historical fiction, could impact a student’s understanding about the past. No dry dates and facts here. Just gut emotions about what a slave child must experience when he is wrenched from his mother. Historical fiction lets the reader enter into another world and see, smell, and taste the experiences of a bygone era. How much more will a child understand the evils of racism than by getting under my character Moses’ skin and feeling what he felt?
I still remember the question my ninth grade history teacher asked us the first day of school. “Why do we need to learn about history?” His answer? Because learning about the past teaches us how to shape our future. On the one hand, we are encouraged by accomplishments our ancestors have made, and on the other, admonished not to repeat their mistakes. The institution of slavery was a sad part of our history that we never want to repeat. The sacrifices that brave Americans made to deliver our country from that evil were awe-inspiring.
History can challenge young hearts to accomplish great things. Historical fiction is a great way to inspire children to do them.