-Nancie Atwell, Winner, Global Teacher Prize 2015
That was all before she became a newspaper reporter: first for Norfolk’s afternoon paper, The Ledger-Star and then a feature writer, business writer, and editorial writer for Norfolk’s morning Virginian–Pilot. One assignment changed her life. Asked to cover a meeting of the Virginia State School Board she heard a dismal story of inadequate and flawed textbooks. The very word “textbook” had become a pejorative and a synonym for dull. Board members saw an urgent need for a readable American history for young readers. Hakim, who had been writing articles on Virginia history, decided to see if she could do one in a year. She wrote, tried chapters in local classrooms, and paid children to edit and comment on her copy. She also found some history professors who were happy to read and assess what she wrote. It was ten years from the time she began until she had the 10-volume A History of US in hand. Later an 11th volume, a compilation of historical documents, was added to the series.
A History of US tells tales of America from prehistory to the 21st century; it has been hailed by reviewers, historians, educators and parents for exciting, thought-provoking narrative. Cited by the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy as an exemplary informational text, it also received the first-ever James A. Michener Award for Writing by the National Council for the Social Studies, two Parents Choice Awards, and a number of other educational and library awards. Joy was honored for her work with the Smith College Medal, the AWC Matrix Foundation’s Edith Workman First Amendment Award, and an honorary doctorate from Goucher College.
Inspired by the reception of A History of US, Joy turned to science with her next book series, The Story of Science. Using a multidisciplinary approach, The Story of Science combines stories about the physical sciences with coordinated "hands on" experiments and activities. The series begins with stories from ancient Greece and ends by looking at modern theories of the cosmos. The Story of Science won the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award, the 2008 Selectors Choice CBC/NSTA's Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, and a Best Science Book of the Year award from U.S.A. Books.
PBS aired a 16-part American history special, Freedom: A History of US, based on Joy’s work. Narrated by Katie Couric and featuring stars such as Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, and a bevy of well-known celebrities, this TV series was designed with classroom use in mind. A companion book and website were also created. For more information please go to PBS.org/historyofus.
Today Joy Hakim lives in Colorado with her husband Sam. She is currently working on two books on biology and the evolution of life and is also serving on the board of a history-oriented middle school. Joy’s most recent work is: Reading Science Stories which is now available as an eBook with a paper book in process.
--Stephanie Harvey, reading specialist and author of Strategies That Work
"In the sorry state of current textbooks the achievement of Joy Hakim's A History of US is all the more impressive. Hakim set out to write a series of books that would combine the best qualities of the earlier narrative histories with modern historical research. Convinced that history is inherently fascinating, she fills her books with anecdotes, quotations, humor, and well-described characters. Instead of talking down to children in simplified language, her books invite children to make an effort."
-The New York Review of Books
"Every child deserves to learn with such material."
-Janet Allen, literacy specialist and author of Words, Words, Words
“I am thoroughly charmed by The Story of Science. The books read lightly and easily while conveying an imposing amount of information. When I was in high school, I used to wonder why the textbooks had to be so horrible. Why, I wondered, didn’t real writers write textbooks, so that we students could complete our reading assignments without wading through prose that resembled a federal budget analysis translated into Esperanto? Please accept my congratulations on this remarkable accomplishment.”
-Timothy Ferris, author of The Whole Shebang
"A big breath of fresh air and the best possible news for the youngsters who get to read these books."
-David McCullough, American historian, author The Wright Brothers, Brave Companions
"You really do seem to have accomplished a miracle--interesting kids in history."
-James M. McPherson, author, Battle Cry of Freedom,
thought a moment, and asked me if I remembered George Washington.
Of course I do. There I am writing in colonial days.