-Nancie Atwell, Winner, Global Teacher Prize 2015
"Compelling writing makes this series a must."
A former teacher and journalist, Joy received a B.A. from Smith College and an M.Ed and PhD from Goucher College; she studied educational psychology at Johns Hopkins and began teaching in inner-city Baltimore. After that she taught Special Ed 8th graders, 5th graders in an “at risk” school, English at a prestigious independent school, American studies at a community college, and writing in a University of VA outreach program for high school English teachers.
That was all before she became a newspaper reporter 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. 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. As she wrote she paid children to act as editors and comment on her copy. She also found history professors who read and assessed 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 Later an 11th volume, a compilation of historical documents, was added to the series. The small volumes are because Hakim cares about reading and big books can be turnoffs.
A History of US has been hailed by reviewers, historians, educators and parents. 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. It is constantly updated.
Inspired by the reception of A History of US, Joy turned to science with her next book series, The Story of Science, books that combine science stories 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 (topping all categories) 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.
Joy is currently working on two books on life science. Her most recent works are ebooks: Reading Science Stories and "Free To Believe (Or Not)," the story of religious freedom in America. It attempts to teach children how to read original documents.
“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.”
thought a moment, and asked me if I remembered George Washington.
Of course I do. There I am writing in colonial days.