Civics teachers and homeschool parents alike will be thrilled with This Is Our Constitution by Khazir Khan. Before using it with my seventh grader, I wanted to check it out and make sure that it presented a balanced view of the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. I was pleased to find that the book focuses on what the document says and current interpretations of its meaning by the Judicial Branch. I recommend this book for grades 5 and up.
For anyone teaching civics, this book is a fantastic resource. It really breaks down the document into kid-friendly language, yet goes into quite a lot of detail. As a former civics teacher, one of the hardest things to do was engage students. Khan sprinkles in comparisons of life in his native Pakistan to his life here in the United States. These “true stories” draw in the reader and explain how the information relates to real life.
Contents of This Is Our Constitution
Chapter One: Why We Need a Constitution
The book opens with a discussion of why people need a constitution. Within this section, Khan discusses the First Amendment and the rights it gives to all citizens. A lawyer by training, Khan does a wonderful job breaking down what those rights mean and how they affect life in the United States. He also discusses the Fourteenth Amendment. In the chapter, he explains the purpose of the amendment, as well as shares what it meant for him to become an American.
Chapter Two: Writing the Constitution
The second chapter focuses on the history of writing the Constitution. This section serves as a good spine for studying the development of our government. The book discusses the problems of the Articles of Confederation, then moves onto the Constitutional Convention. Within the chapter, the reader is introduced to the principles used to create the government, as well as some of the Founding Fathers and ratification. To meet state standards, teachers may have to supplement this section with more specific breakout lessons. However, this chapter would provide a good foundation for students.
Chapter Three: Understanding the Constitution
By the end of this chapter, the reader will understand the Preamble, as well as each Article of the U.S. Constitution and the amendments. Each section is broken down so the reader can easily understand the purpose and effects of each section. Parents and teachers will be happy to know a complete copy of the Constitution is included later in the book, making it easy for students to read the actual text with its explanation.
Chapter Four: Perfecting the Constitution
The focus of this chapter is how and why the Constitution has been changed and interpreted over the years. Khan goes into more depth on the Bill of Rights and why the Founding Fathers included those particular rights within the Constitution. He also discusses the current interpretations of the amendments as well as limits to those rights. The rest of the chapter into detail on landmark Supreme Court cases and the history behind later amendments.
Chapter Five: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States
This section is simply the documents provided in their original language – great for anyone using this book as part of a unit of study.
Standing with the Constitution
Within this final section, Khan promotes good citizenship and discusses ways people can support the rights and responsibilities outlined in the U.S. Constitution. More Supreme Court cases are summarized as well. He doesn’t go into as much detail as the cases in chapter four, but again, the summaries could be used as a stepping stone for further research.
It is hard to find civics resources that most students can easily comprehend. This Is Our Constitution will help many American students gain a better understanding of our government. What is your favorite resource for civics instruction?