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Sharing Memorial Day with Kids: An Early Educator’s Spin On It

Educational Support Services

A young student asks, “What is Memorial Day?” Are you prepared to answer that question?

The history of Memorial Day dates back to 1866 and the end of the Civil War. Soldiers were coming home with serious injuries and many towns had lost friends and loved ones. Retired Major General Jonathan Logan took veterans through towns to decorate the graves of fallen comrades with flags and poppies. This was known as Decoration Day.

In 1882, it was named Memorial Day and declared a day of remembrance of all soldiers who had died fighting for this County. President Richard Nixon declared it a National Federal Holiday in 1971.

With such a somber background and meaning, it can be difficult to talk to kids about why we commemorate Memorial Day and what it means.

So, how do you best answer this question, “What is Memorial Day” when children ask?

  • Books can help. Whether through historical fiction or history books, a good picture book, or early-reader novel can help kids better understand a complex subject such as Memorial Day. It can also offer parents a springboard for deeper conversations.
  • Ask a student’s parent if any of their family members were ever in war or if they are a military family. Bring their stories into the classroom community.
  • Be informed on local Memorial Day events to share with children and their parents.At these local Memorial Day events, children’s questions will be answered naturally, as they observe and listen to stories of dedication, bravery, and sacrifice.

I leave you with a video clip of the award-winning picture book, titled Sidewalk Flowers, by JonArno Lawson and Sidney Smith. If you wish, take a moment, a relaxing breath and enjoy a story on the importance of paying attention and paying tribute to what’s around us, keeping in the back of your mind, “What is Memorial Day?”
Shannon Pimentel
Program Supervisor, First 5
Educational Support Services
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education

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