October 24, 2013
Lisa Barron and Kathleen Walter
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Children need to learn more about the Revolutionary War so they can appreciate the immense struggles that went into the founding of the United States, Newt Gingrich’s wife, Callista, tells Newsmax.
She has come out with a children’s book to tell the story of the Founding Fathers.
“Yankee Doodle Dandy” is the third installment of her New York Times bestselling series aimed at readers ages 4-8.
In the book, Ellis the Elephant, the series’ main character, travels back in time to teach kids and parents about the Revolution.
“The American Revolution is so important because it’s really that great struggle that forged our nation,” Callista Gingrich said from her home in Arlington, Va.
“Young Americans really need to learn about our patriotic heroes and the remarkable revolution they led in an effort to appreciate how we became a free and independent nation.”
Since 2007, Gingrich has been president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production company she founded with her husband, Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker.
They produce historical and public-policy documentary films, publish books and newsletters, and make speeches and television and radio appearances.
Before that, she was chief clerk of the House Committee on Agriculture and served on the staff of former Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Wis.
In “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Ellis witnesses the “shot heard ’round the world” in Concord, Mass., which is said to have started the fight to be free of the British.
Despite it being a challenging historical topic for young children, Gingrich explained, “You have to tell the truth.”
“We are teaching American history. However, this book is for 4-8-year-olds, so we can’t be terrifying.”
“When we cover the shot heard ’round the world, which sparked the American Revolution,” she continued, “we have Ellis at the Old North Bridge with a look of exasperation and wonder.
“We can’t make him look terrified, we can’t make him look happy. So, we treated it in an honest way, and our illustrator, Susan Arciero, did a beautiful job of capturing the moment.”
Ellis also encounters the Sons of Liberty, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and many other historical figures.
How do these real-life American heroes stack up as role models in comparison to characters popular with this age group today, such as Spongebob Squarepants?
“They’re very important,” Gingrich said. “These people were very young Americans. Thomas Jefferson was 33, James Madison, 25, James Monroe, 18, not much older than a high school student, yet they showed great courage, and it’s so important for our young Americans to learn about these people so they can really begin to appreciate the greatness of this nation.”
Gingrich also said books such as hers are critical when it comes to teaching children about America’s heritage, because revisionist history has become a problem in the nation’s schools.
“Unfortunately, many of our students today are failing to learn our American history, including our founding principles and values, and instead learning revisionist or politically correct history and, as a result, have no idea about our American history,” she said.
“And as we look at surveys today, they’re rather frightening,” she added. “Only one in three fourth-graders knows the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and fewer than half of all fourth-graders today know about George Washington as an important American leader. So, we have a lot of work to do, and we owe it to our kids to give them the tools they need at an early age to begin to appreciate this nation.”
Gingrich also revealed her husband’s role in the series.
“Newt is a huge enthusiast of Ellis the Elephant, as am I, but we’re really more enthused about getting our kids to learn American history. And Newt and I both think about the book initially, we outline the concepts that we want to highlight, we talk about the values we want to convey, and after that, then we work on the illustrations.”
The whole process, from start to finish, takes about six months, she said.
What’s next for Ellis the Elephant?
Gingrich says they are planning a fourth book, called “From Sea to Shining Sea,” in which Ellis will learn about the early stages of the republic through the expedition of Lewis and Clark.
Gingrich said she views the books as patriotic rather than partisan.
“They aren’t meant to be Republican books or conservative books,” she explained, “but rather pro-American books, and I hope many families will see them as a celebration of our patriotism and of our nation.”
Callista Gingrich to Newsmax: Book Tells Kids 'Truth' About Revolution
- on October 24, 2013