Constitution Day is celebrated in the United States each year on September 17th, the day that the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787. Educational institutions receiving funding through the Department of Education are required to participate by holding educational programs pertaining to the U.S. Constitution. I think this particular instance of unwarranted interference by the federal government in educational affairs is probably unconstitutional, but well-meaning and perhaps helpful. At any rate, if you want to introduce students—or yourself– to the U.S. Constitution and its meaning, here are some titles to help you to do so:
Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen. Subtitled “The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787,” this book is the one that gave me the story of the US constitution. It’s suitable for older readers, at least middle school age, but it’s historical writing at its best. I loved reading about Luther Martin of Maryland, whom Henry Adams described as “the notorious reprobate genius.” Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts who was”always satisfied to shoot an arrow without caring about the wound he caused.” (Both Gerry and Martin refused to sign the final version of the Constitution.) Of course, there were Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, George Washington, who presided over the convention in which all present knew that they were creating a presidency for him to fill, and Ben Franklin, the old man and elder statesman who had to be carried to the convention in a sedan chair. Ms. Bowen’s book brings all these characters and more to life and gives the details of the deliberations of the constitutional convention in readable and interesting format.
A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro; illustrated by Guilio Maestro.
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitutionby Elizabeth Levy; illustrated by Joan Holub.
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz; illustrated by Tomie dePaola.
We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States Illustrated by David Catrow.
We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Peter Spier.
Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz.
Cobblestone: Celebrating Our Constitution. Cobblestone Publishing, September 1987. (magazine for kids)
Cobblestone: The Constitution of the United States. Cobblestone Publishing, September 1982. (magazine for kids)