About the Holiday
Flag Day commemorates the day in 1777 when the “Stars and Stripes” designed by Besty Ross was adopted as the official flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress. Through early efforts by BJ Cigrand, a school teacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, in 1885 and George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City in 1889, observances celebrating the flag’s birthday were initiated. Three decades of remembrances followed, and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson officially established the holiday. It wasn’t until President Harry S Truman signed an Act of Congress on August 3, 1949 that June 14 was designated National Flag Day. Today, people are encouraged to display the American flag. Special events and ceremonies also take place on this day.
Why Are There Stripes on the American Flag?
Written by Martha E. H. Rustad | Illustrated by Kyle Poling
The school bell rings and the kids in Mr. Gomez’s class get ready to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Charles raises his hand with a question. Suddenly all the kids have questions about the flag and the words of the Pledge they say each morning. Mr. Gomez is enthusiastic about answering the kids, and the class starts a discussion that includes a bit about the Revolutionary War and how the original 13 colonies became the first states. The new government, Mr. Gomez says, wanted a symbol for the country.
In 1777, Mr. Gomez continues, the American leaders decided to use the colors red, white, and blue. The red stands for courage, the white for goodness, and the blue for fairness. The Flag Act of 1777 decreed that the flag have 13 stripes, alternating red and white, and 13 white stars on a blue field. Stars were chosen to represent the states because the founders believed America was “like a new group of stars shining in the night sky.” Mr. Gomez shows his class pictures of how the flag changed over the years as states were added to the union.
Next, the kids want to understand the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance better. Line by line, Mr. Gomez defines the more difficult words. Allegiance he explains means loyalty or friendship and that in the first line of the pledge we are promising to be loyal to and respect the flag. Respect is shown when we stand and place a hand over our heart while reciting the pledge, obey the rules of raising and lowering the flag, and other requirements. Mr. Gomez then explains what a Republic is and the idea that America is indivisible in that her people live and work as a team, staying together even when we disagree. The concepts of liberty and justice are also defined.
The class is excited with their new knowledge and before heading out for recess, they say the Pledge of Allegiance together.
A Make Your Own Flag activity follows the text along with a glossary of words used in the book and resources for further study.
Martha E. H. Rustad has written a primer about the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance that will engage kids and teach them about these important patriotic concepts. Words such as symbol, justice, liberty, and more are described through the give and take between Mr. Gomez and his students, using familiar examples from the playground and classroom. Each page also includes facts about the US flag, the Flag Act, the design of early flags, flag etiquette, and more.
Kyle Poling’s friendly and colorful illustrations depict a diverse class where the concepts being discussed are clearly visible. Young readers will feel right at home in Poling’s classroom environment and be excited to learn about the origins of our most familiar symbol.
Ages 5 – 8
Millbrook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1467744652
Flag Day Activity
Star-Shaped Word Search
The stars on the American flag represent the country’s 50 states. In this printable Star-Shaped Word Search you’ll find words about the origins of the US flag and the Pledge of Allegiance.