Dear America

 
(i)

 

Books-inspired series brings history to life for kids.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids see historical events play out through the eyes of characters near their own age. The show introduces them to the sights, sounds, dangers, and joys of life during times such as the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Each story is rooted in historical fact that's the backdrop for what could have been real-life events.

Positive messages

The series brings unique historical moments to life in ways that will resonate with kids, as the stories are told from young characters' points of view. It takes care with its presentations of various ethnicities, including Native Americans, African-American slaves, and Irish immigrants, and it stays mostly neutral on historical matters themselves, keeping the focus on how they play out through the characters' eyes rather than on who's right and wrong. Because these tales are set in different times, customs and gender roles will seem foreign to kids, but it's a good introduction to how things were.

Positive role models

The characters -- especially the girls at the heart of the stories -- usually exhibit personal strength that sees them through the challenges of the time. Usually a solid family structure is behind their strong character and helps them weather the storms, and they often make surprising discoveries about people they assumed to be enemies. Others aren't so laudable, especially those who use conflict for their own gain.

Violence & scariness

Historical events often include violence, particularly scenes of war, capture, or other conflict. Weapons are used, and death is addressed in a realistic manner. In other cases there's less visible violence but a persistent threat of danger. Because the characters at the heart of the stories are girls and young women, this content may affect young viewers more than it would if it centered on adults.

Sexy stuff

Rarely kissing and the suggestion of boy/girl relationships.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

The series is inspired by a book series of the same name.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Dear America is a historical drama series based on Scholastic books of the same name. Each episode tells a different story from the point of view of a teen girl who writes in her diary of her observations and experiences during a point in American history, including the Mexican-American War, the settlement at Plymouth Rock, and the pre-Civil War South. Expect to see instances of racial tension, war, and other conflicts, although their intensity is downgraded in light of the target audience's youth. Some frightful moments threaten the characters' safety and might be too worrisome for young kids, but overall this series is a great option for bringing certain historical points to life for grade schoolers.

Kids say

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What's the story?

DEAR AMERICA is a historical anthology drama series set in various turning points in American history. Like the book series upon which it's based, the stories are told in first person by fictionalized girls who write of their experiences in their diaries. From an Irish immigrant in the mid-19th century to a young slave in pre-Civil War Virginia, they tell tales that provide a window through which kids can glimpse how these real events shaped not only the course of America's history but also affected the lives of those who lived through them.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Dear America humanizes the often-dusty details of kids' history lessons. Rather than simply reading about the relationship between the Quakers and the Native Americans, for example, kids can suss out the climate for themselves in stories such as "Standing in the Light," which tells of a white captive of the Lenapi people who comes to appreciate the Native American way of life. By turning places and dates into the tangible (if fictionalized) story of a person's life, the show makes it easier for kids to grasp the basic concepts.

Because the series is geared toward kids, complicated historical events are reduced to fairly simple terms, but it's a great place to start to introduce your kids to the human side of America's history. And it doesn't shy away from all the drama, so be prepared to answer questions about war, racial tension, and other harsh realities of life in the country's first centuries.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the stories in the show compare to kids' knowledge of these episodes in history. Do you think they portray the culture and emotions of the time with accuracy? Can you relate to the main character and her experiences?

  • It is said that history is written by the winners. Do you see evidence of this in these stories? Which of the characters would be considered "losers" by American historical standards? Can we fully appreciate their struggles if we've never experienced anything like them?

  • Families can build on what they learn about history in this show. Read a book or do an activity that relates to each story's particular time and place. What games or pastimes would have been popular for kids then? What jobs might they have held at home or school? How would family life then compare to what you're used to now?

TV details

Cast:Jennifer Wigmore, Lisa Jakub, Tamara Hope
Network:HBO
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters, Great girl role models, History
TV rating:TV-Y7
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Dear America was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byleekp February 16, 2014
 

Some upsetting content, but overall is educational and entertaining

My nine year old really enjoys this show and has watched every episode. I find it a little dark for a kids' show. The topics covered are quite serious and the episodes can be violent. Each episode focuses on a fictional girl character from some chapter in America's history. She is typically imperiled by something specific to her historical period. The endings of each episode are uplifting, but the road to the ending is usually rocky and in many episodes, girls lost family members. I found some of the episodes upsetting - but things do generally "work out" in the end (at least for the main characters). Overall, this is a good show to watch together as a family - so potentially upsetting content can be discussed. I recommend it for kids 8 or 9 and up, but it would depend on the individual child because, as I said, some of the material is pretty heavy.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence

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