Looking for Books: A Treasure Hunt

Looking for Books: A Treasure Hunt
Lucy Hayes: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: One to two class periods

Required Documents
Finding Books for Children Worksheet


During Lucy Hayes’s life, people in the United States began the shift from a rural, agricultural way of life to a more urban, manufacturing way of life.  Many aspects of this shift were reflected in children’s books of the period.  These books became part of the life of childhood in the middle and later years of the nineteenth century, and some are still favorites today.  Using a simple worksheet, this lesson will ask children to use the Timeline on the First Ladies Library Website to find “treasures”—children’s books published during the lifetime of Lucy Hayes.  They will then discuss what they found, paying special attention to whether or not they, themselves, have also encountered some of these books.


There are multiple purposes for this lesson.  First, it offers students the opportunity to do research using a timeline, thus giving them some sense of commonalities and differences of an experience (children’s books) over time.  Second, it shows them that human beings often have the same kinds of experiences, even though they may be born decades apart.  Third, it shows that some things “stand the test of time,” that is, they may be enjoyed by successive generations.  Finally, the lesson offers students the opportunity to share one of the common experiences of childhood: reading children’s books.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet The "Finding Books for Children" work sheet


1.  Place the children in small groups of 3 or 4.  Give each child some time on the website listed below  to research the publication of children’s books from 1831 to 1889.  Suggestion: the years can be divided among all the children so that no one is looking up more than three or four years.
2.  Ask each group to report on what book “treasures” it has found.
3.  Have the class make a “timeline” of its own, listing the books in the order in which they were written.

4.  Discuss these books with the children in terms of what they’re about, whether or not the children are familiar with them; whether or not they’ve seen these stories on TV or in the movies; and what they’ve learned from these stories about the past and the present.

Extending the Lesson:

If it is possible, have children bring their own copies of these books to school, or get them from the school or public library.  Teachers may want to expand this exercise and discussion into a book fair, or have children write book reports about some of these books.  For a number of these particular books, pictures of the original illustrations are available on the Web.

Sources & Resources:


This lesson plan was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.