Weaving Children’s Literature into Social Studies K–5

I. Novel Studies in the Social Studies

Suggested Time: 10 minutes


  • copy of The Mountain That Walked, if available
  1. Explain the following about novel studies.
  2. Although there is very little attention paid to novel studies in this workshop, it’s only because of the difficulty in sharing longer texts in a workshop setting. There are in fact a great many novels available to support the social studies, some of which are in the literature lists for each grade. Novels provide students with an in-depth experience of different times, places and people, and are invaluable in helping to develop social studies concepts.

    Recognize that a read-aloud novel study (that is, where the teacher reads the novel aloud) is as good as and often better than a novel study in which the students each read the novel for themselves. Some students do not read well enough to fully experience a novel or to be able to participate fully in the activities developed to accompany the novel. The teacher’s reading can impart both a love of literature and an enthusiasm for the book and the topic that is infectious, making the whole experience very positive. A read-aloud novel study has the additional advantage of requiring only one copy of the novel rather than a class set.

    An example of an excellent read-aloud novel study is The Mountain That Walked , by Katherine Holubitsky. In this novel by an Edmonton author, a sixteen-year-old orphan, Charlie, has come to Canada as a “Bernardo Boy,” part of a group of London orphan children who have come to be fostered on Canadian farms. Charlie is taken in by a pair of violent brothers who beat and work him near to death. Charlie escapes to the mining towns in the Crowsnest Pass where he settles in the tent camp on the flats below Turtle Mountain in the town of Frank, Alberta in April of 1903, just days before the Frank Slide. This story tells of some of the key points in Canadian history and provides many authentic details. It is a very well done novel, a real page-turner, and a fine read aloud for fun or novel study for grade 4. It has high appeal for boys, as well. It is on the difficult side for grade 4 students to read independently, but just fine for a teacher to read aloud.

    One follow-up to reading of the novel could be to keep a chart documenting lifestyle and other factors that were different in Charlie’s time from today. Have students describe how things have changed. The following table headings might be used:


    In Charlie’s Time Today
    In the Home















    Getting Food



    Government Services






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This resource was developed by ERLC as a result of a grant from Alberta Education to support implementation.