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Education Reporter

How to Raise an American, Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston, Crown Forum 2007, 312 pages, $22.95

With over a million legal immigrants entering the United States off of long waiting lists each year — and an untold number of illegal ones — it seems that plenty of others share most Americans' conviction that this is a great place to live. Why, then, do growing numbers of young Americans say they'd rather live somewhere else? At the beginning of their book, Chriss Winston and Myrna Blyth cite a poll that asked Americans: "All things being equal, would you prefer to live in the United States or would you prefer to live in some other country?" 95% of respondents over 30 chose the U.S.A.; but only 75% of those under 30 agreed.

This poll is one sign of what the authors call a "patriotism gap" between younger and older Americans. Many Americans under 30 lack a historical perspective or the knowledge of what it is about this nation that makes possible the unprecedented freedom, opportunity and prosperity they enjoy.

Winston and Blyth blame two primary "bad influencers" for this lack of knowledge and the resulting patriotism gap. First, students learn little about American history or distinctives in school. They learn much more about the most shameful episodes in American history than they do about the most heroic or inspiring ones. Second, anti-Americanism permeates the mainstream media and affects the news we read and don't read every day.

The authors offer positive, practical solutions for all who want their children to know what makes this country great. Into a relatively short book, Winston and Blyth have crammed a vast variety of resources: table talk questions for lively conversations about American ideals, trends and other topics, "patriot projects" for children of all ages, the top five historic or patriotic road trips in each state, 100 American movies that will teach and inspire, and much more.

Celebrate immigration and the American "melting pot" with a "Great American Potluck" of recipes from countries that have sent many emigrants to the U.S. Learn the story of women's suffrage and host a "We're just wild about Harry" party in honor of Harry Burn's deciding vote in obedience to his mother's telegram: "Don't forget to be a good boy and vote for suffrage." Your family can have a wonderful time learning and commemorating American history and institutions together, and this book will show you exactly how.

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