In education "revolutions come in circles". Thirty years ago the traditional history textbook followed in chronological order from pre-history to the then modern times. Subsequent books focused on topics such as the Romans. Now schools are being encouraged to return to a more chronological approach.
The History of Scotland for Children begins with a chapter on settlers and invaders and ends in the 20th century with the opening of the Scottish Parliament. Other chapters cover key events and peoples, such as the Normans in Scotland, Scotland's fight for freedom, the Stuarts and the Union.
The nation's history has been shaped by the actions of many famous people, not just William Wallace, and this has not been forgotten by the author who describes the achievements of monarchs like David I and James IV in law, order and education. Persecution of witches and other less savoury aspects of Scottish history feature throughout. One of the disadvantages of topic-based studies is that pupils have difficulty understanding the whole picture.
It is therefore easy to sympathise with the child who, in describing the Roman invasion of Scotland, wrote about soldiers running up and down closes and jumping on and off buses.
One advantage of Judy Paterson's book is that it helps to set a context for a particular topic with artful subtlety. The chapter on the 19th century, for example, provides an excellent starting point for that hardy perennial topic, the Victorians. The book is ambitiously aimed at pupils aged seven to 12, which covers a wide span of reading abilities, but would probably be more appropriate for upper primary or as a reference book for the more literate eight and nine year olds. Judy Paterson writes with the enthusiasm and skill of a good storyteller and the many colourful illustrations serve to enliven her text. Nevertheless, it is just a great pity that photographs have been omitted since they would have added an opportunity for pupils to further evaluate extra visual sources. A helpful glossary and index are provided. Glowworm Books as a publishing house vividly illustrates the recent renaissance in Scottish publishing. In the past, history teachers found it difficult to find good resources. Now they can rely on an ever increasing range, typified by this easy-to-absorb offering.
This book adds to this variety and could be used by teachers either in the library, or in the classroom as well as for homework.
Glowworm Books can be contacted by writing to them at Unit 7, Greendykes Industrial Estate, Broxburn, West Lothian EH52 6PGAllison Hillis teaches at Dalreoch primary, West Dunbartonshire.