I think stories are the best way to learn about history, especially for children. I’ve put together a short list of books and videos below to spark ideas for your study of the Great Depression. Some of these are more challenging to track down now compared to when I first started recommending them, but I still like to share them with others because they are personal favorites.
My Unit Study Activity Pack is a great way to document your study of the Great Depression. It’s an inexpensive and flexible way to add written learning activities to your unit. You can use it with a variety of homeschool approaches such as notebooking, relaxed homeschooling, etc.
We Had Everything But Money
If you are looking for living books about the Great Depression, I have some great ones for you.
Reiman Publications has produced some wonderful books dealing with the Great Depression. The first one I’m going to share with you is We Had Everything But Money (Priceless Memories of the Great Depression). It is described as: “from strong people who tell in their own words what it was like when banks closed and hearts opened.”
There are so many things that make this book great for reading with younger children. First, each story is short, often just half a page to a page. Second, the book is full of photographs. And, third, many of the stories are about children themselves.
The chapters are:
- When the Banks Closed, Our Hearts Opened…
- Braving the Dirty ’30s
- Looking for Work
- Beans, Bacon and Gravy
- Make It Last, Wear It Out
- Cherished Photos
- How We Got Around
- Love and Marriage
- How We Had Fun
- Christmases We Remember
This book is truly a gem and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s highly engaging and I cannot imagine many children not finding the stories fascinating. The stories paint an accurate picture of the Great Depression, but in a positive, can-do kind of way. The book will bring about many great discussions and can also be a great launching place for discussions about character traits.
Bottom line: If you’re learning about the Great Depression, get this book.
When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts
When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts is the sequel to the above book. This is also a wonderful living book full of stories told by people who lived through the Great Depression. The stories are overwhelmingly positive and feature people making the best of what were often very difficult circumstances.
This book is full of photographs and the stories are short so it is a good book to use with children when introducing them to the realities of the Great Depression.
The chapters include:
- Bank Closures Shook Our Trust
- Alphabet Soup
- When Hobos Rode the Rails
- Recycling’s Nothing New
- You Could Depend on Family
- We Called the Orphanage “Home”
- Making Food Stretch
- All the Okies Weren’t from Muskogee
- Now That Was Entertainment
- City Life Was a Challenge
- It Was My Lucky Break
Highly recommended for your study of the Great Depression!
Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression
Kate Lied tells the story of her grandparents, Clarence and Agnes, and what happened when Clarence lost his job in Potato: A Tale From The Great Depression. They had not been married all that long and they had a baby girl. But with determination, courage, and hard physical work they were able to persevere during those difficult years.
The story is written simply with just a sentence or two on each page. The illustrations are warm, but also illustrate the difficulties faced by the little family.
Potato: A Tale From The Great Depression is an lovely picture book to help young children begin to understand what happened to families during this tumultuous time. It also makes an excellent starting point for discussing character traits such as courage, perseverance, and sacrifice.
This picture book is highly recommended and has a permanent place on our family bookshelves.
Kit Kittredge Books and DVD
Watching the Kit Kittredge: An American Girl DVD opened up the topic of the Great Depression for Caroline, my seven year old daughter (at the time). Although it offers a somewhat happy and sanitized view of the Great Depression, it does hit on a lot of the major topics in a way a small girl can understand.
Kit is living a lovely middle class life in Cincinnati during the Great Depression. She dreams of being a newspaper reporter. So far her parents have managed to avoid the worst of it even though their friends around them are beginning to feel the impact.
And then it happens. Kit’s father loses his automobile business and must leave home to look for work in Chicago. Kit’s mother begins taking in borders in order to make ends meet. Kit feels like her world is falling apart at times, but she manages to make the best of it.
In addition to the movie on DVD, there is also a series of Kit Kittredge books that follow the storyline of the movie but with much more detail.
I highly recommend the Kit Kittredge series for young girls who are just starting to explore the topic of the Great Depression.
Children of the Great Depression
A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. I think this is definitely the case with Children of the Great Depression, another great book for families who are learning about this topic.
The book is full of remembrances and comments by those who were children during the Great Depression. Accompanying these stories are poignant photographs from the time. Many of them will be hard for children of today to comprehend because the lives people lived during the Great Depression were full of such desperation.
The book contains a good variety of topics that will be of interest to children. The chapters include:
- Picturing the Great Depression
- “The Sight of My Father Crying”
- “Ill-Housed, Ill-Clad, Ill-Nourished”
- In and Out of School
- Kids at Work
- “Okie, Go Home!”
- Boxcar Kids
- The Lone Ranger and Captain Midnight
- A Brighter Tomorrow
Overall, a solid book for exploring how children experienced the Great Depression.
Depression Era Cooking With Clara
If you haven’t happened to see this collection of Clara videos on YouTube, you are in for a treat! Clara was 94 years old when she made the videos, sharing stories about the Great Depression while demonstrating some of the very simple and frugal meals she made during that time.
In this very popular video, she demonstrates making The Poorman’s Meal. (CensorTube won’t let me embed it any longer.)
This Depression Breakfast video is another favorite.
These videos should provide lots of real life to discuss with your children.
Clara has also written a book Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression.
If you are looking specifically for cookbooks and recipes from the Great Depression and rural cooking, don’t miss these other titles:
- Depression Era Recipes
- Old-Time Farmhouse Cooking: Rural America Recipes & Farm Lore
- The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy
- Secrets of the Great Old-Timey Cooks: Historic Recipes, Lore & Wisdom
Or this history book that looks interesting:
More stories from the Great Depression:
- SHARING MEMORIES: 1930’s Life on the Farm during the Great Depression
- Mother’s cheer uplifted family during Great Depression
Have a wonderful time exploring this time in our American history!