V&V Q&A With Sheila Carlberg: “America Is My Home”

Editor’s Note: The “V&V Q&A” is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. In this latest edition, professor of political science and executive director of the Center—Dr. Paul Kengor—interviews Grove City College graduate Sheila (Mattes) Carlberg (class of ’04) on her new book, “America Is My Home”—which is a story of faith and freedom for young children.

Dr. Paul Kengor: What is the premise of your book?

Sheila (Mattes) Carlberg ’04: “America Is My Home” is a story of faith and freedom for young children.

Kengor: What is the connection between faith and freedom? How and where is that connection—or message—lacking in books and in teaching to our young people today?

Carlberg: The misunderstanding of separation of church and state has caused many churches and schools to avoid discussing faith and patriotism in our country. It is our faith that is the basis of our freedom. As Samuel Adams said, “The truest friend of liberty is a country that promotes its virtues.” It is no coincidence that at a time when our personal freedoms are being trampled by the federal government, the Christian faith is also under assault. Everyone needs to remember that there is a strong correlation between the Judeo-Christian faith and a free society. We must work diligently to educate children on the importance of both.

Kengor: Describe the content.

Carlberg: “America Is My Home” begins with a boy in school with a U.S. map and flag behind him and follows the boy throughout his day—as he enjoys many of the freedoms that make America great. I examined our nation’s foundational writings and wrote simple statements that I would want my children to understand about America, like: You are blessed to live in America. You can pray in America. You have a great military in America. You can vote in America.” From there I wrote a simple, rhyming story about how “America Is My Home, it’s the best, place to be …” to tell the story about faith and freedom in America.

Kengor: You say that you want to facilitate discussion about what it means to live in America. Explain that. What does it mean—or, perhaps, what should it mean—to live in America? And are we failing to teach this to the next generation?

Carlberg: Ronald Reagan said it best, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” As Americans, we have a responsibility to understand our freedom—and a responsibility to contribute to its preservation.

Parents can visit www.AmericaIsMyHome.com to access patriotic lesson plans that accompany the book. It is my hope that the book will help facilitate a discussion between parents and children about what it means to live in America—discussions that, unfortunately, are no longer occurring in our school systems today. The message—of America being a great place; a place like nowhere else in the world; a place where children are free to pray, to work hard, and grow up to become anything they want to be—can and must be taught to children if they are to understand and preserve the American ideal.

Kengor: Who is the audience? What age group? It’s mainly preschoolers, right?

Carlberg: This simple message of faith and freedom, along with the creative, well-drawn illustrations is targeted for children, ages two to six. However, as with many children’s books, it can be enjoyed by older children and adults as well.

Kengor: Why do you feel this book needs to be written?

Carlberg: Conservative, Christian parents need a simple book to begin discussions with their children about America. Most patriotic books target older children or lack a faith-based message.

Ask any parent of young children how many farm or truck books they own. I doubt they own a single book about America.

Kengor: You wrote the book. Who did the illustrations?

Carlberg: It’s simply written and illustrated. My sister-in-law, Adrienne (Carlberg) Shaw, a fellow Grove City College grad (class of ’02), did an amazing job creating illustrations that complemented the text. As with any children’s book, the illustrations are an integral part of the story. We wanted to keep the story as simple as possible and we hope that parents will use the illustrations for further discussion.

Kengor: Would this make an ideal purchase for this Independence Day?

Carlberg: Yes, it would! In fact, it was near Independence Day last year that I recognized this book needed to be written. As I prepared my two-and-a-half-year-old son for the day’s festivities, I realized that he knew very little about his country. I found myself struggling to explain freedom to such a young child. So I began an Amazon search for a book to aid in the discussion. I was shocked as I blazed through the titles, unable to find a book for a young child with a basic message of what freedom is and why it’s so valuable. It’s my hope that, as parents stop to remember that Independence Day is far more than fireworks and friends, they will be able to use my book to share their appreciation of our country with their children.

Kengor: Could homeschoolers use this? How about private schools? Public schools?

Carlberg: I created lesson-plan suggestions on my website www.AmericaIsMyHome.com to complement the book and aid parents and teachers in discussion with their children. Topics include an introduction to the United States, our flag, The Pledge of Allegiance, freedom, and the military. It is my hope that homeschoolers, private and public schools can use this book to guide discussions on faith and freedom in America.

Kengor: How and where should people go to order the book?

Carlberg: Books are available at www.AmericaIsMyHome.com and on Amazon.com.

— Sheila (Mattes) Carlberg is a Grove City College graduate (class of ’04) and author of the new book, “America Is My Home”—which is a story of faith and freedom for young children.