This Thursday is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (13 April 1743), so why not spend some quality homeschool time this week with a ready-made lesson plan from the Library of Congress that looks at the case for purchasing Thomas Jefferson’s personal library as a resource for the nation:
In the lesson, which uses original historical sources, students are asked to “examine a letter written by Thomas Jefferson and identify techniques he used to persuade Congress to purchase his personal library. Students consider a selection of Jefferson’s books and then write their own persuasive letters urging the books’ purchase, while considering the question: ‘Why would Congress need this book to shape or govern the nation?’”
The lesson is recommended for grades 6–12, and it includes all the background material you’ll need. I have a feeling it’s just the kind of project that some clever homeschoolers could dive right into.
Jefferson did succeed in persuading Congress to purchase his library, and his books became the core collection of the Library of Congress, our national library. Every American student should know the story:
On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved an appropriation of $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of [C]ongress.”
The first books purchased were ordered from London and arrived in 1801. The collection of 740 volumes and three maps was stored in the U.S. Capitol, the Library’s first home. At the time, it was not yet much of a building — only its north wing had been completed.
From 1802 to 1805, the small collection was located in a room previously occupied by the House of Representatives. It was later moved to various places in the Capitol until August 24, 1814, when the British burned and destroyed the Capitol, including the Library.
To replace the loss, Thomas Jefferson in 1815 sold his personal library of 6,487 volumes — which was then unrivaled in America — to Congress. Sadly, a second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed two-thirds of those volumes. But the Jefferson books nonetheless remain the core from which the Library’s present collections grew. (blogs.loc.gov)
The Library’s main building today is called the Thomas Jefferson Building.
What educational discoveries have you been making in your favorite library this Leo Term? 😊
❡ Dukedoms large enough: Have you found all the local libraries in your area? There may be more than you realize, and there’s no better homeschool field trip than a field trip to a new library! The WorldCat Library Finder will help you find all the library collections near you — public and private, large and small — and the WorldCat catalog itself will help you locate the closest copy of almost any book in the world. 📖
❡ Books in the running brooks: The sidebar on the River Houses website has links to several wonderful online library collections that we like to explore. Why not sit yourself down at a large screen for a while (rather than a phone) and give them a browse. 🖥
❡ When in doubt, go to the library: This is one of our regular Homeschool Books & Libraries posts. Add your name to our weekly mailing list and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🗞
❡ Support our work: If you enjoy the educational materials we distribute each week, please support our work and the noble cause of homeschooling by making a small donation as a Friend of the River Houses! Your support keeps us going and growing! 😊