“The Wall” by Eve Bunting – Kids Memorial Day Book + Activities
For our Kid’s Book club this month, we are reading The Wall by Eve Bunting. As a history teacher, I loved talking with my students about the origination and history behind the holidays we celebrate. Although for many of us, Memorial Day is just a day off and a time for vacationing, it can be a valuable tool for teaching children to honor and remember those who died in our country’s service.
I’m still planning exactly how we’ll celebrate, but one of my favorite activities was participating in the Honor Roll project. Our family visited the war memorials in Tucson and transcribed the names listed there.
In my mother’s family, and many others, the traditional activity for Memorial Day is decorating the graves of loved ones, not just those who died while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, a day set aside in 1868 to decorate the graves of union soldiers.
I love any holiday that helps my family remember and honor those who have passed on, especially those who sacrificed their lives for our country. I read The Wall by Eve Bunting with them last night. My 6 year old and 3 year old listened quietly as the story unfolded and we all felt very somber and peaceful at the same time.
We’ll keep learning about the holiday throughout May. Another helpful children’s book is Memorial Day by Christin Ditchfield. It discusses the history of the holiday and includes the story of Moina Michael who started the poppy tradition.
About The Wall
In The Wall, a boy and his father are visiting the Vietnam war memorial in Washington DC to find the name of the boy’s grandfather. They search through all the names and find the year that his grandpa died. 1967. Then they run their fingers along the rows looking for the name. The boy thinks the words look like soldiers marching.
They find his name – George Munoz. His dad says, “Your grandpa. He was just my age when he was killed.” They touch his name, feeling it, and wipe away tears. They make a rubbing of the name and the little boy wishes his grandfather were here with him.
The boy leaves a picture of himself at the memorial. “Grandpa won’t know who I am,” the boy tells his dad. “I think he will,” the father replies. The picture blows away and the boy piles stones on top of the picture to keep it in place.
How many of us have grandparents or great grandparents that didn’t know us? That we didn’t get to know? How do you decorate their grave? A wreath, flowers, letter, picture of yourself? Here are some ideas:
– Read The Wall, discuss honoring those who died protecting our country on Memorial Day
– Learn about ancestors who died while serving in the armed forces
– Create a virtual memorial for ancestors who served in the armed forces
– Place a photo of yourself and letter next to the grave of an ancestor you didn’t get to know
– Decorate the graves of your family members with wreaths and flowers
– Road trip to a place your ancestors lived and visit the cemetery they are buried in (here are 8 Tips for Planning a Memorial Day road trip that I put together after we visited Taylor, AZ to see our ancestors graves)
– Read The Poppy Lady and wear a poppy flower on Memorial Day to remember those who died
– Make poppy crafts to decorate your home for Memorial Day
– Purchase poppy products from the American Legion to support veterans, widows, and orphans
– Check out my pinterest board with ideas for teaching children about Memorial Day
Reading The Wall for Family History Storytime
I’m planning to read The Wall for family history storytime the week before Memorial Day and do these activities:
– Children will place a flag next to graves on a National Cemetery Diorama (via Growing Little Leaves)
– Create a Paper Wreath with stars and red/blue paper
– Create a felt poppy to wear on Memorial Day