Examining the Declaration of Independence and Celebrating the Independence Day holiday
Each July 4th, we celebrate the nation’s “birthday” with parades, picnics, and pyrotechnics. We don our red, white, and blue; sing patriotic songs; and proudly display our American flags. Thankfully, for many, the Independence Day holiday is still a day filled with celebration – a day spent remembering the brave actions of our nation’s founding fathers. For others, however, it has become just another day off work, one that is passed with little thought or respect for the Declaration of Independence and all that it gave us.
This year, as you celebrate the July 4th holiday, I invite you to sandwich some time in between the cookouts and fireworks to explore this nation’s first Independence Day. Take some time to read the Declaration of Independence. Explore the living conditions that led up to the formation of the Continental Congresses and the writing of this great document. Truly examine what it meant to be an American citizen then and what it has come to mean today.
The Library is a great place to begin your exploration. The Library will be closed on the 4th, but you can borrow books like the ones listed below all year.
Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776 / William Hogeland (973.311 HOG)
The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence / edited by Jack N. Rakov (342.7302 ANN)
American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Gettysburg Address / Stephen Puleo (973 PUL)
These are just a few of the many adult titles on this topic. A simple search using the keywords “Declaration of Independence” or Independence Day” will provide many more, including some wonderful children’s titles like the ones featured below:
The Declaration of Independence / Peter Castellano (J 973.313 CAS)
The Declaration of Independence in Translation: What It Really Means / by Amie Jane Leavitt (J 973.13 L)
Independence Day / by Rachel Grack (HOL 394.2634 KOE)
If you are not able to borrow print materials to have on hand for the 4th, consider exploring the digital resources that you can access from home, or from wherever you will be spending the day. All you’ll need is your library card number, PIN, and access to the internet. I recommend using Newspapers.com, Salem Online, and TrueFlix.
Newspapers.com provides digital access to Pennsylvania newspapers, including some that were written at the time that the Declaration of Independence was crafted. It is here that you can view a copy of an actual notice printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette on July 10, 1776 stating “On Monday last at twelve o’clock the Declaration of INDEPENDECE was proclaimed at the State House of this city, in the presence of many thousand spectators, who testified their approbation by repeat acclamations.” To learn more about the activities and sentiment that led up to its signing, be sure to also examine the articles that appeared in the weeks and months prior to July 4, 1776. A simple search using “Declaration of Independence” yields many. You can find Newspapers.com at www.dcls.org/databases or at www.dcls.org/newspapers .
Salem Online is a great reference resource for learning about history. A search of it returns a brief description of the events that led up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It also offers an excerpt of this important American document. You can log on to Salem Online to perform your own searches or click on this link to view this content. You can find the Salem Online database at www.dcls.org/databases .
A terrific resource for kids of all ages is TrueFlix. TrueFlix contains an e-Book collection of educational picture books from Scholastic. Included is a selection of books about the U.S. Government. It is here that you will find the book, The Declaration of Independence, by Elaine Landau (pictured below).
To access this book online, visit https://www.dcls.org/SchoolToolsElementary or https://www.dcls.org/SchoolToolsMiddleSchool and click on TrueFlix. (You will need to scroll down towards the bottom of the page to find this link.) Next, key in your library card number and PIN where prompted. Select “U.S. Government” from the list of topics and browse for “The Declaration of Independence". Click on the image of the book’s cover to open it. You will be presented with full-text images of the pages of this book. You can turn the pages and read the content yourself, the same as if you are paging through a print book; or you can let TrueFlix read the book out loud to you. To add to the experience, watch an accompanying video, complete the associated activities, and explore the recommended websites.
With its wide selection of engaging educational books featuring people, places, history, science and nature, TrueFlix is truly a wonderful resource to share with young children. I encourage you to explore all that it offers. I found that its collection “The Thirteen Colonies” was also worth exploring at this time as its featured books add insight into the living conditions that existed prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
In preparing this write-up, I personally read Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776 (the first book mentioned above). I found it to be an enlightening and enjoyable read. I hope that you will find one that you will enjoy. Regardless of whichever book or resource you may choose, it will be well worth your effort. If you are like me, you will discover that many of the facts surrounding the crafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence have begun to fade from your memory, and that by reviewing them again, you can appreciate more fully the risks faced by our founding fathers then and the freedoms that we continue to enjoy today because of their actions.
Happy Independence Day!