In the summer of 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to write a new plan of government for our nation. The Constitution was approved by the Convention and signed on September 17th of the same year. Once signed it was sent to the states for ratification.
In 2005, a federal law established September 17th as Constitution Day. Here are some books and additional resources to help you celebrate the law of the land in your home or classroom. Please note that these are largely focused on the elementary level.
Shh! We're Writing the Constitution, written by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Tomie dePaola - This book provides a highly readable account of the Constitutional Convention by describing what the framers were doing and how they did it. Readers will find the text of the Constitution, as well as several pages of explanatory notes.
We The Kids, illustrated by David Catrow - Drawing on his strengths as a political cartoonist, Catrow uses a group of friends and a backyard camping trip to make the Preamble to the Constitution understandable for readers by pairing the text with illustrations that help define phrases like insure domestic tranquility, common defense, and our posterity. For example, the illustration for "establish Justice" shows a dog wearing a helmet and standing guard while the kids play inside the tent.
A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution, written by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro - This book provides an overview of the Constitution, beginning with the initial decision to hold the convention and ending with the adoption of the Bill of Rights. The focus of the text is really on the basic decisions about the organization of the government which resulted in the Great Compromise. Also included is a final section that provides a list of the signers, chronology of events and dates, and simple summaries of the Articles and amendments.
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution, written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Joan Holub - Like other books in the If You Were There series, this one is organized around a series of questions. It begins with What is the Constitution? and then moves on to a bit of history (the war, the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation) in order to lay the foundation for understanding the document. This one answers many questions about who was involved, why certain choices were made, and how the process worked.
Picture Window Books publishes a series entitled American Symbols. In it you will find these books written by Norman Pearl and illustrated by Matthew Skeens:
- The U.S. Constitution - This book begins with James Madison introducing himself and asking the question "What is the U.S. Constitution?" What follows are a series of spreads with information about the framers and how they worked together, the document itself and the branches of government.
- The Bill of Rights - In this book James Madison looks at the Bill of Rights and explores how it came to be.
Sites for Kids
- Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids has a wealth of resources at different grade levels. The pages on the Constitution of the United States for grades 3-5 are particularly useful.
- America's Story from the Library of Congress highlights James Madison's Contributions to the Constitution.
- Congress for Kids has a site on the Constitution that includes information about the writing the document, the Great Compromise, the signers, the Bill of Rights, other Amendments and much more.
- White House for Kids also has a resource page on the Constitution.
- The Bill of Rights Institute has a flash interactive module entitled Madison's Notes are Missing. In it, students travel back in time to the Constitutional Convention, talk to the delegates (with animation and voice), and write a news article about the events.
- USConstitution.net has information on the Constitution for kids in grades K-2 and kids in grades 4-7.
- The National Endowment for the Humanities provides a number of resources for celebrating Constitution day.
- The Library of Congress also lists a variety of Constitution day resources.
- The Center for Civic Education provides lesson plans for K-12 classrooms.
- The Constitution Center has a searchable database of resources.