The Star-Spangled Banner

This is a repost,
one of my favorite songs and books, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Happy Birthday, America.

Bringing our National Anthem to Life

Few books have the power to move young students and make a difference; this one does. Whenever I sing our National Anthem with children, I pull out my well-loved and very worn book, The Star-Spangled Banner by Peter Spier.  Every page is a full color illustration of the words to the song.

img_1944This book makes my heart race!  Every single time I read or sing the book,  children are drawn in.  There is wonder, and there are more questions, and inevitably a crowd of children begin pushing in to see and hear, and to learn.

This is what I wrote to families on one such occasion. “It happened like this…”

“I want to tell you about early morning in the Big Room today.  It was one of the most exciting, intense, and passionate twenty minutes with children that a teacher can have.  Emergent Curriculum at it’s best.  As we say in the Aqua Room when a story is true, “It happened like this”:

Troy wanted to have a ‘show’, so he and Jill and Sam went to the top of the loft.  No, they did not want to sing Troy’s favorite song, “Proud To Be An American”.  They wanted to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  Of course it was wonderful, and we all clapped.  Then I said, “Do you want to know what the song looks like and what really happened?”  I ran back to the Aqua Room (yes, I ran down the hallway and back…) and returned with Peter Spier’s book, The Star-Spangled Banner.  Before I opened the book I said, “The guy who wrote this song was on a British ship, and it was night time.  The only way he knew if we were winning was if he saw the American flag.”

By that time I had Troy, Jill, Sam, Jacob, Callie, Lily, Cooper, Lizzie, and Finn all around the book, captivated.  First I asked them what a star spangled banner was.  They knew!  Then we started to read the book.  The first page alone took forever, because we had to explain and talk about the funny hats and clothes, and the ship.  Children had been to Boston to see the Constitution.  Jill knew that ‘Old Ironsides’ meant that cannons and rockets didn’t penetrate the sides.  Once we looked at the first picture, we had to talk about how long ago this happened.  It was 1814.  Oh my, we just figured out that next year would be the two-hundredth anniversary of the song!  We planned an impromptu ceremony.

We were still on page one, and now a crowd of children came over to be there.  We started to read, but children wanted to ‘sing’ the book.  That was fun!  We found the flag on every page, through the battle.  Then, there were other things we found, like ramparts, and new vocabulary words, like ‘perilous’.  When the verse ended, the book went on.  Children were stunned to know that there were more words.  Those verses led us to learn why a flag is sometimes halfway down on the mast, and to the Statue of Liberty, the Statue of Iwo Jima, the astronauts on the moon, and different Navy ships at sea.

Honestly, the turn of each page drew more questions, and the discussions to find the answers were both intense and inspirational for the children.  Nobody interrupted, because everything was important.  It was a perfect experience.”

Do you know what a towering steep is?  The children figured it out:

img_1946When I get to this page, I stop.  I tell children this is a sad page, yet a proud page.  We talk about flying the flag at half mast, and about soldiers who have died for their country.  Children understand:


Children can learn history, even at a young age.  This book proves that.  Thank you to Peter Spier who was born and educated in Amsterdam, and didn’t move to America until 1952 when he was an adult.  His book is a magic wand.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in America, American flag, Book Review, children's books, Early Education, history, Inspiration, patriotism, picture books, reading aloud, reading aloud, Singing, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to The Star-Spangled Banner

  1. Terrific story, Jennie.

  2. Darlene says:

    Loved it the first time, love it again. Happy July 4th!!

  3. beetleypete says:

    I cannot imagine us having a similar book about our anthem, or flag. I can really see how it fires up the kids’ imaginations. Mind you, it’s a very difficult song to sing! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      I would think children would like a similar book about God Save the Queen. And yes, it is a very hard song to sing – exactly why Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America. Best to you, Pete.

  4. Ritu says:

    Happy 4th of July Jennie!

  5. barbtaub says:

    Reblogged this on Barb Taub and commented:
    What is America? Not a parade of military might, or fences, or any of the other things that allow us to forget who we are and where we came from. But the lucky children in Jennie’s class know the answer. And we’re lucky too, because she’s sharing it with us.

    Happy Birthday America!

  6. This is marvelous Jennie. I’m not familiar with the children’s book. However, I remember a teacher explaining the lyrics and bringing it to life for me. It gave me goosebumps then and it still does today. Happy Fourth of July. Hugs on the wing!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Teagan! I’m glad you had a teacher who made the song come alive. That’s music to my ears. Pun intended. 🙂 Happy Fourth to you!

  7. Dyanna says:

    This is both beautiful and inspirational will reblog it definitely!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I loved all of his books. Thanks for sharing this one today.

  9. What a wonderful book for our nation’s Independence Day, Jennie.

  10. I love that there are writers out there that know how to capture children and pull them into learning with their words and pictures too. Happy Independence Day, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      I do, too. The illustrations in this book really bring the song to life. It’s better than a history lesson. Happy Fourth of July to you, Marlene.🇺🇸

  11. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you for this wonderful post!

  12. srbottch says:

    Wonderful! Wonderful! So wonderful that the kids are learning about America when they’re kids and in such a positive way. Thanks, Jennie.

  13. Isn’t it incredible to think that one man’s illustrations and simple text has the power to influence generations of children in the best possible way? (I just love that about children’s books!)

    • Jennie says:

      I have thought about that often, and it still amazes me. And to think he was not born and raised in America! I will always have the highest regard for good children’s books.

  14. I remember reading about this lovely book before, Jennie.

  15. Hope you all had a nice celebrations! Sorry, as always i am a little bit late. Michael

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