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The First American Colonists
Class set order code: 5929S
The stories in this book explain the European colonists’ efforts involved in building—but not always keeping—the first white colonies in what would later become the United States of America.
As young children, we seem to emerge from elementary-level American history and social studies classes with the idea that the first Pilgrims came to the shores of America, built a few homes, were befriended by the local native people, and celebrated a happy Thanksgiving before plunging headlong into the colonization of the New World. Even after high school, we persist in carrying around the idea that our European ancestors landed at Plymouth Rock and lived happily ever after, smiling away as they built their log homes and cleared a few acres for a vegetable garden.
If we think critically, we know it can’t have been that easy. But how much do we really remember—or did we ever even truly know—beyond that simple narrative of arrive, settle, colonize? Of course, it certainly was not that easy. In fact, many people died in the effort to settle in the new land that would someday become the United States of America, and many more struggled through one hardship after another to keep their small settlements going. It didn’t help that some of the leaders made poor decisions along the way, at times turning friendly Native Americans into enemies. In the strange new continent, they needed all the help they could get.
Despite the effort involved, the settlers persisted, and more people began to come over from Europe with bright dreams that the newly discovered continent surely would fulfill. Many of the colonists were ambitious men who came in the service of their home countries to claim parts of the New World as theirs. In the Pilgrims’ case, it was so that they could enjoy the freedom of religion that they were denied at home. But it was a wild, unforgiving land that they were trying to tame, and it was only with courage and determination that those who succeeded did so. The settlers faced frustration and loss; they made mistakes; they underestimated the hard work involved in carving an existence into the American wilderness. But they kept at it until they had established colonies so that they and others like them could pursue those bright dreams across the ocean and try to make them come true.
Yes, the Europeans arrived, settled, and colonized, but the truth is far more complex than that, and the stories in this book illustrate that truth. No one who reads them will grow up believing that old, idealized narrative about the first American colonists. That narrative is nice, but the truth offers valuable lessons of hard work and perseverance that will benefit children for the rest of their lives.
This book is also available as a series of dyslexia-friendly books. (See below.)