Elementary Educator's Guide to Primary Sources
Strategies for Teaching
by Tom Bober
December 2018, 167pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-6386-8
$50, £39, 44€, A69
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6387-5
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Learn how to successfully use primary sources with elementary age students.

Focusing on student analysis of primary sources, this book explores several proven analysis strategies to use with students, including methods from the Library of Congress, the Stanford History Education Group, and Harvard's Project Zero.

Many elementary school librarians and teachers want to incorporate primary sources into their lessons but struggle with how to do it. Whether you are starting from the beginning, have used strategies that didn’t seem to work, or were underwhelmed by others’ suggestions, this book shows you how you can successfully supplement and deepen your students’ learning with primary sources.

Focusing on proven strategies for elementary students, the book is divided into four sections, each of which demonstrates the strategies through real-world examples of student work. In the first three parts, it explores the three major considerations for using primary sources, strategies for analyzing primary sources, effectively using primary sources to teach different subject areas, and special considerations for different primary source formats. In the final part, the author shares tips that he has learned after years of bringing primary sources into his elementary school that will ensure success in students’ primary source analysis.


  • Explains how to identify compelling primary sources by searching online and local resources
  • Helps readers to recognize the role primary source analysis can play in student learning across subject areas and grade levels
  • Offers readers an understanding of an array of primary source analysis techniques as well as well as ways to modify those techniques in unique situations
Tom Bober is an elementary librarian in Clayton, Missouri, former teacher in residence at the Library of Congress, a member of the Teachers Advisory Board at the National Portrait Gallery, and a 2018 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. He writes about the use and benefits of primary sources in classrooms for School Library Connection, Social Education magazine, Library of Congress Magazine and for blogs. He presents at regional and national conferences, runs workshops, and has developed and presented webinars for the Library of Congress and ABC-CLIO.


"An excellent option for elementary librarians and teachers seeking to take student learning further."—School Library Journal, May 1, 2019

"This work would be useful to reference when teaching units on media literacy. Elementary school educators will find this outstanding overview an essential addition to their classrooms."—School Library Connection, May 1, 2020

"Tom Bober’s book Elementary Educator’s Guide to Primary Sources: Strategies for Teaching hooked me with his first sentence, 'I love old documents,' and riveted me until the final period. While I think secondary teachers would appreciate this book, I’m glad Bober included all elementary educators. This book is a goldmine of information. I especially liked Bober’s working definition of a primary source and the clarifying examples he provided. Perhaps even college students could benefit from his explanation. Lev Vygotsky cautions us to 'bring the wonders down' when teaching something abstract. In his authentic voice and unique style, Bober does just that. What we call 'priming the student/priming the text' in Abydos, he uses Harvard’s Project Zero’s 'see, think, wonder' strategy. Brilliant! That allows for plenty of time to tap prior knowledge and build scaffolds. Artifacts simply become the means to the important end we call learning. Another plus for Bober is the consistent way he places the teacher in the role of guide—not the omnipotent, all-knowing sage that all-to-often teachers assume. Bober’s rhetorical stance makes the book readable, interesting, and practical. So taken was I upon reading the pre-copy edited version that I contacted Tom Bober to speak at our Abydos Literacy Conference in April. He agreed to come. Everyone who teaches needs exposure to Bober and his work."—Joyce Armstrong Carroll, EdD, HLD, Author of Acts of Teaching: How to Teach Writing

"Tom Bober’s book is a thorough guide for using primary sources in your library or classroom. Whether your primary source understanding is basic or beyond, you will be inspired to use primary sources in new insightful ways. This must-read, explains and clarifies the roles of the document(s), the teacher and the students. . . . This book will inspire you to include primary sources in your curriculum planning and give ideas for library-classroom collaboration.. If you are wondering how to get students thinking, wondering, analyzing, investigating, and connecting to real life --this book is for you. . . . [T]his is a great how-to manual for those who have never worked with primary sources, and a clarifying book with extra details and new ideas for those who have."—Paige Jaeger, Author and school library consultant
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