Celebrating Family Stories in bold text, surrounded by an orange background with framed family photographs, marigold flowers, and lit candles.

Monthly Highlights - October 2023

Monthly Highlights – October 2023

As we continue to highlight Latinx heritage this October and are looking forward to Dia de los Muertos on November 1, we are thinking about the many ways that family stories and celebrations continue to impact our students’ understanding of themselves and their histories. When people celebrate Dia de los Muertos, they engage in lived history by remembering family members who have passed on. Talking about family stories in the classroom is a way to help students identify their personal connections to the past, and it also offers an opportunity to talk about kinship and families that are not related by blood. This October, we are highlighting educational resources, picture books for students, and recent scholarship about kinship, heritage, and family and community stories.


Featured Teaching Resources:

The collection below includes selections of teaching resources centered around family and community history from the entire CHSSP state-wide network. Reach out to a site near you or browse their websites for additional teaching resources, as well as information on professional development opportunities, events, and more!

How do Families Remember their Past? 

This second-grade primary source set introduces the concept of primary source material to young learners. Primary sources shape students’ own lives, heritages, and family identities, and they can serve as an entry point for students’ broader learning about the richness of source material. By studying the stories of a diverse collection of families—such as immigrant families, families with LGBTQ+ parents and their children, families of color, step- and blended families, families headed by single parents, extended families, multigenerational families, families with members having a disability, families from different religious traditions, and adoptive families—students can both locate themselves and their own families in history and learn about the lives and historical struggles of their peers.

Why do People Move?

This second-grade inquiry set is designed to take place after students have had the opportunity to research family and/or local history with the desired outcome of answering the question(s), “Why did my family settle in California?” or “Why did families decide to settle in our region?” While being careful to respect that many students may not know or want to discuss their own family circumstances, teachers should take time to explain the circumstances by which people have come to the community. The sources in this inquiry set are designed to introduce students to the push and pull factors that have motivated migration in California.

What can this photograph tell us about the Harvey family in 1874? 

This early history lesson asks third graders to act as historians while examining a primary source: an 1874 photograph of the Harvey house, with the Harvey family gathered outside. Students are walked through a list of important questions historians might ask when examining a primary source. The lesson also helps students see the copious amounts of information a historian can grasp from one single primary source: a family photograph. 

Ute Indian Family Life 

This fifth-grade lesson plan begins by asking students to describe their own family and community groups, along with celebrations and traditions they might participate in together. Later, they are asked to consider what information future historians might gain from learning about their own family and community practices. This helps set the stage for students to learn about Ute Indians’ family life and culture in earlier times. 

Immigrants to Angel Island at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

This 8th-grade primary source set examines the experiences of immigrants at Angel Island and Ellis Island through photographs and first-hand accounts and considers the impact of immigration policy on these hopeful immigrants. Students examine different immigrant groups as well as the various reasons these groups immigrated to the United States. Additionally, students learn how new immigrants to the United States maintained familial bonds abroad while also starting new family life in America. 

Food Stories: Exploring Family Histories through Food 

This lesson plan introduces students to the concept of food history. Some historians use food as a lens to understand topics such as family life, immigration, imperialism, cultural exchange, and cultural diffusion. In this activity, students act as “food historians,” exploring the history and stories behind one of their favorite meals unique to their family or culture. 

Oral History Toolkit

This toolkit from the UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project is a great resource for teaching students about oral history. It helps teachers and students as they work together to learn the basics of oral history and conduct interviews with community members and participants in historical events. All the steps necessary to start oral history research are provided in a clear and usable way. Having students conduct oral histories on family or community members they are close to could be a great way to introduce them to the importance oral research plays in learning one’s family history! 

Platicas con Family Photographs

Platicas is a project out of the UCLA History-Geography Project (and new UCI History Project site director Cindy Mata) that arose from the need to continue teaching historical skills during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order. Platicas, meaning informal and intimate conversations with a loved one that “allow us to witness shared memories, experiences, stories, ambiguities, and interpretations that impart us with a knowledge connected to personal, familial, and cultural history,” encourages parents/guardians and kids to talk about their family through the lens of family photographs. Here’s a comprehensive blog Shelley Brooks wrote when Platicas was launched in 2020 that further explains how it can be used to teach students about personal histories:

               Reclaiming Our Stories Through Platicas and Photos - Shelley Brooks


Recent Scholarship:

Margaret K. Nelson, Keeping Family Secrets: Shame and Silence in Memoirs from the 1950s (November 2022)

From NYU Press:

“Margaret K. Nelson is interested in how families keep secrets from each other and from outsiders when to do otherwise would risk eliciting not only embarrassment or discomfort, but profound shame and, in some cases, danger. Drawing on over 150 memoirs describing childhoods in the period between the aftermath of World War II and the 1960s, Nelson highlights the importance of history in creating family secrets and demonstrates the use of personal stories to understand how people make sense of themselves and their social worlds.”

Lisandro Perez, The House on G Street: A Cuban Family Sage  (October 2023)

From NYU Press: 

“In The House on G Street, award-winning author Lisandro Pérez tells Cuba’s story through the lens of a single family: his own. This book is a unique depiction of one of the most consequential events of the twentieth century, told through generations of ancestors whose lives were shaped by dramatic historical forces.”

Ava Chin, Mott Street: A Chinese-American Family’s Story of Exclusion and Homecoming (April 2023)

From Penguin Random House:

“Breaking the silence surrounding her family’s past meant confronting the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the first federal law to restrict immigration by race and nationality, barring Chinese immigrants from citizenship for six decades. Chin traces the story of the pioneering family members who emigrated from the Pearl River Delta, crossing an ocean to make their way in the American West of the mid-nineteenth century.”

Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack (June 2021)

From Penguin Random House:

“Historian Tiya Miles carefully traces these women’s faint presence in archival records, and, where archives fall short, she turns to objects, art, and the environment to write a singular history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States. All That She Carried honors the creativity and resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today.”

Benjamin Wurgraft and Merry White, Ways of Eating: Exploring Food Through History and Culture (September 2023)

From UC Press:

“From the origins of agriculture to contemporary debates over culinary authenticity, Ways of Eating introduces readers to world food history and food anthropology. Through engaging stories and historical deep dives, Wurgaft and White offer new ways to understand food in relation to its natural and cultural histories and the social rules that shape our meals. Migration, politics, and the dynamics of group identity all shape what we eat, and we can learn to trace these social forces from the plate to the kitchen, the factory, and the field.”


Picture Books (#KatesBookClub):

The Remember Balloons by Jesse Oliveros. Simply a lovely book about a loving relationship between a young boy and his grandfather. The two like to share their memories, until grandpa's memories begin to fade and float away. The brightly colored balloons representing memories stand out against the black and white background.  James' grandfather and father are Black, and his mother is white. A gentle way to talk with students about memory loss and diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The Only Way to Make Bread by Cristina Quintero. Much like Luli and the Language of Tea, this book celebrates the community of baking bread and breaking bread with those you love. Highlighting the variety of breads made in different cultures, the best bread is made with love.  Don't miss the back matter where all types of breads - Pandesal, Arepas, Challah, Focaccia, Shokupan, Bao, To, Puri, and Dinner Buns are described in detail. All students will be able to find their own type of bread in this book.

Lolo's Sari-Sari Store by Sophia N. Lee. A little girl holds lessons learned in her grandfather’s sari-sari store close while adjusting to a new home in this sweet picture book about the joy of community, connection, and Filipino culture. For one girl, summers used to mean helping Lolo run his sari-sari store, which was always brimming with goods for the neighborhood. Now that she’s far from the Philippines, she misses Lolo and the friendly faces that surrounded his sari-sari store. But when she remembers her grandfather’s words, her heart keeps Lolo close, and she starts to see opportunities for connection and community in her new home.

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles. Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. A celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next.  Unique way to honor history and family. Would be a great discussion starter about family traditions.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour. Lovely story about a young child and how she copes with her Mommy going out of town on a business trip. Gives relatable examples of how young people miss family members when they are gone, even for a short while. FAIR Act opportunity.

Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis. Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built. "This is the land that's never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana's luau." Great way to teach Hawaiian culture and connections. Good for the littles.