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Bedtime History is a collection of 25 inspirational history stories for children. Learn about heroes such as Neil Armstrong and Joan of Arc, what principles led them to greatness and why they became an inspiration for many. Each story ends with a moral and questions which will get children thinking about such topics as persistence, courage, and kindness.
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Close your eyes and imagine you are standing in a wide open field. In the field you see a gigantic white rocket reaching far up into the sky. As you walk up to the rocket, the door opens and you climb inside and find a seat and buckle up. Next you hear the countdown – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Suddenly the rocket rumbles as it lifts of the ground and shoots through the sky, past the clouds, and up, up, up into space. When you look out the window you see the round blue ball of earth far below.
The rocket is going faster and faster. You zoom past the moon as the rocket picks up speed. Soon the other planets of our solar system pass you by. You look back and notice the earth has grown smaller and smaller until it has disappeared from view. Then suddenly you are traveling at the speed of light, and before long you have left the solar system and are deep into outer space. All is black. You travel further and further until suddenly you look out your window and see a beautiful cloud of dust and gas all swirling together. You have arrived at the place where stars are born. It is called a stellar nursery, which means a star birthing place.
Stars are sort of like people in that they are born, and they grow until they are bigger, and then eventually get old and die. But unlike people stars live for millions or even trillions of years. Our own sun is a star, it’s just a lot closer than the stars we see twinkling in the sky at night that appear so small.
For millions of years clouds of dust and gas in space swirl around each other in what is called a nebula. Over time these clouds slowly group together into clumps that eventually become baby stars — or protostars. Some stars grow bigger and bigger until they become as large as our own sun. And often they have their very own planets, just like our sun has its own planets. These stars become very hot and bright, which is why when you look up at the sky at night you can see them even though they are sooo far away. To travel to many of these stars would take thousands of years.
The reason we know a lot about how stars are born is because of a space telescope. A space telescope is a telescope that is launched into space and can see better because it is above the earth. The Herschel Space Observatory was built by the European Space Agency and watched where stars were born for 4 years. Because of the hard work of the engineers and astronomers working on this space telescope, we know a lot more about the life of stars.
After changing from clouds of gas and dust many of these baby stars eventually become “main sequence” stars, then sub-giant stars and then red giant stars. Many of these very large stars are thousands of times bigger than our own sun. And our own sun is very, very big.
After millions of years even stars grow old and die. Eventually they begin to collapse in on themselves and then suddenly explode in what is called a supernova. During a supernova they shoot gas and dust for millions of miles around them. Supernovas happen in the universe all the time but often it’s hard for us to see them happening because there are so many stars and they are so far away. The people who study stars are called astronomers. Most astronomers thought the only way to see supernovae would be to use a large telescope run by many astronomers. In Australia there was an amateur astronomer named Robert Evans. He had a normal job during the day, but at night his favorite thing to do was to go on his back porch and use his little telescope to watch the stars. Robert was interested in supernovas, when stars explode, but decided he didn’t need all of the big telescopes to see them. So he started watching for supernovas on his own. For many nights Robert didn’t see anything. But he kept watching and kept waiting, until he saw his first supernova. He was so excited. Over the years Robert has seen 42 supernovae! Which is an amazing achievement. Because Robert is very patient and very diligent he has been able to see when these gigantic stars explode all the way across the galaxy.
When we look out in the night sky we see many stars, but they are very far away. After the sun, the closest star is called Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is 25 trillion miles away! This gives you a little bit of an idea of how large our galaxy is.
Stars like our sun are very important because they are like huge factories which give off energy and heat. They send this energy in the form of waves that travel all the way across space to Earth. There are many reasons our sun is important. First off, without it would always be night. If it was always night, it would be very hard to see! Also, trees would never grow, because trees need the sun’s energy to grow. Without trees and other plants we wouldn’t have oxygen to breath and animals wouldn’t have food. And without animals and plants we wouldn’t be able to eat either. We would all be in very big trouble! Also, the earth would become very very cold and everything would freeze. Even on hot days, we should be very grateful we have a sun that keeps planet Earth running smoothly.
Next time when you go outside and feel the warm sun on your skin, think about how the sun rays travelled 100 million miles to to make you warm. That’s pretty amazing that an object sooo far away can make its way all the way to you and keep you warm and keep us all alive.
When we learn about how stars and our own sun it makes us grateful for nature and the world around us. And when we understand how important they are it reminds us to respect and take care of what we have.
Tonight think of some ways you can better take care of the Earth, whether it means picking up trash outside or not wasting water or planting flowers or a tree. There are many things around us in nature that we can be curious about and appreciate if we just take the time to notice them.
Tonight our story beings around 100 years ago in New York City. Every day new families were moving to New York. Some were traveling across the sea by boat to find new work. They came from Ireland, Italy and England looking for new places to work and to raise a family. Because of all of the work and people there New York was a busy, noisy place with many factories, stores and crowded streets.
Close your eyes and picture yourself standing on a streets of New York City at this time. You hear people walking and talking and horses trotting down the dirt roads. You smell fresh baked bread someone is selling on a corner, a whistle blows as work starts in a nearby factory. Men wear vests and caps, women wear dresses.
As you walk down the street you hear a boy calling from the corner. He is shouting loudly. You turn and walk toward him. You see that he is a small boy, with old, grimy clothes and holes in his shoes. He’s carrying a larger stack of newspapers and holding one high over his head.
“Read the headlines, Spanish-American War rages on!” He waves a paper at you. “Do you want to buy a paper?” he asks. You nod and hand him a coin and he hands you a newspaper and smiles. You look at the newspaper, the top of it reads “Spanish-American War” in big bold letters. You read about a war with pictures of ships sailing across the ocean and soldiers marching and firing their weapons.
The boy who sold you the newspaper was called a newsboy. In New York there were many young boys who didn’t have families — or sometimes they had families who were too poor and needed them to work. In American and other countries many young children worked to help pay for food and clothes and their homes. The newsboys would wake up early in the morning and go to the printer and buy newspapers for the day. Then they would carry their papers through the city and do whatever they could to sell these newspapers to make a little extra money. It wasn’t an easy life, but they did what they could to stay alive. Sometimes being a newsboy was dangerous as sometimes the boys fought over who could have the best corner in the city. The roads were also very dangerous with horses and carriages.
During the Spanish-American War it was easy for the newsboys to sell their papers, because everyone wanted to know what was going on during the war. There were many newspaper companies in the city, but the two largest ones were called The World, which owned by Joseph Pulitzer and The Journal, which was owned by William Randolph Hearst. During the war Pulitzer and Hearst increased the cost of their newspapers, because they knew everyone wanted the news so badly they okay paying more for it. Pulitzer and Hearst also competed between each other for the better journalists and cartoonists. Newspapers were very popular at the time because there was no other way to get the news like the TV or Internet today. Often the newspapers made up stories to get more people to buy them. This wasn’t very honest and was called “Yellow Journalism.”
When the Spanish-American War ended not as many people were buying the newspapers so it became very hard for the newsboys to sell them. No matter how hard they tried to sell their papers, everyone wasn’t as interested to buy them as they were before. On top of this, the newspaper owners had made the papers more expensive, so people weren’t as willing to buy. The newsboys knew if they wanted to stay alive they would need to come up with a plan to change the newspaper companies minds. But newspaper owners like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were very powerful men with lots of money, so to go against them would take a lot of hard work and determination.
One popular newsboy was named Louis Ballett, but everyone called him Kid Blink, because he had a patch over one of his eyes. Kid Blink and other newsboys decided to band together and not sell newspapers. If enough newsboys joined them they thought maybe Pulitzer and Hearst would change their mind. This is called a strike. Kid Blink and other newsboys told other boys about their plan and soon none of the boys all across New York were selling papers. This was hard for the boys because if they weren’t making any money, they didn’t have food to eat. But they were determined to make a difference. On one day of the strike they all gathered on Brooklyn Bridge. There were so many newsboys that even the traffic had to stop! People all over New York City saw what the newsboys were doing and wanted to help them. They decided they wouldn’t buy newspapers from Pulitzer and Hearst either. Pulitzer and Hearst tried to hire older men to sell their papers but no one would help, because they believed in the newsboys cause. Kid Blink and his friends kept giving speeches. In one speech Kid Blink said: ““Friens and feller workers. This is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we’se got to stick together like glue…. We know wot we wants and we’ll git it even if we is blind.”
After many days the newspaper companies were losing so much money they had no choice but to change what they were doing. They decided instead of making the boys buy all of the papers, at the end of the day they would buy back what they hadn’t sold. Finally the strike was over and the newsboys could go back to selling papers. Everyone was amazed that a group of small boys could change the minds of such powerful people such as Pulitzer and Hearst. Because of what these boys did many other workers over the years had strikes. Sometimes it is necessary to strike if people need better places to work, deserve better pay. It’s one way to keep a balance between workers and company owners. The Newsboys Strike of 1899 became an important part of workers rights history.
When I was younger, Disney made a movie about the newsboys strike called Newsies. If you haven’t seen it yet you will have to check it out, it will give you a little idea of what these boys did to make a difference. Later the movie became a Broadway Musical, which did very well and can also be seen on TV if you look for it.
Like the newsboys, it’s important to learn how to work when you are still small. You may not be working on the streets like they did, but you can help around your house and in the yard, pick up your toys, do the dishes, or do other helpful chores. Also, when you aren’t treated with respect like the newsboys you can stand up for yourselves. Everyone deserves respect and to be treated well, no matter their size. Be sure to speak up and stand up for what is right even when it takes lots of courage and isn’t easy to do.
- Have you ever heard of a comet? A comet is a gigantic piece of ice and rock and dirt that flies through outer space at incredible speeds. Many comets are the size of mountains and when they speed around space have a tail of gasses that can be hundreds of thousands feet long.
- For a long time humans have seen comets in the sky and wondered what they are. some very smart scientists decided they wanted to learn more about comets so they decided to create a spaceship that would find a comet and land on it. This had never been done before but they knew if they build the spaceship right and worked out all of the math correctly they could make it happen.
- Many different countries in Europe, designed and started working on the spacecraft they would call Rosetta. It took many different engineers and scientists studying space and spaceships to know how Rosetta should work.
- Astronomers, scientists who know a lot about space also had to follow the comet Rosetta would land on. They had to use math to figure out how fast Rosetta should go and where it should go to land on the large rocky comet flying around space.
- When Rosetta was ready they blasted the ship into outer space and someone gave it directions to fly. No one was actually on Rosetta because it would be gone for a very long time and might be a very dangerous mission. They flew it sort of like you might fly a remote controlled helicopter or car.
- For 10 years Rosetta flew through outer space. It had many adventures there such as passing planets like Mars and asteroids, other rocks in space, many places a spacecraft had never been. After 10 years it finally was close enough to the icy comet speeding through space. All of the engineers and scientists at mission control were very nervous. They had worked very hard for this day and had been very patient waiting 10 years until they could land their ship. When the day finally came they watched in anticipation as Rosetta came into the orbit of the gigantic comet. This comet was as big as a mountain.
- Attached to Rosetta was a robot that would land on the comet and do experiments to learn more about the comet. When the time was right the lander shot out of Rosetta and raced toward the massive comet below. For a moment it seemed as thought it wouldn’t work, the lander was off track, then suddenly it shot spears out of its side and stuck into the comets ground. It used these hooks and ropes to pull itself down to the ground. When it hit the ground it tumbled and was broken in some places but eventually came to rest. Everyone at mission control cheered. The robot had landed, Rosetta had completed its mission. This was the first time a robot had ever landed on a comet flying through space! The mission was a success!
- Once the lander, which they had called Phillae had time to recharge its batteries it was able to do a few experiments and send the data back to earth. They learned about the water on comets and some of its metals.
- Like the scientists and engineers who designed and built Rosetta you can learn all you can about science and other subjects. They had to listen closely and study and do their homework to become skilled at what they do.
- Astronomers also helped by learning about the stars. You can go out at night and look at the stars and watch shows and read about all of the amazing things happening in the sky above you.
- Waiting for Rosetta to finally reach the comment also took patience. They had to wait many years until it arrived.
- Over 2000 people worked on this project. This shows that teamwork is important to make great things happen.
- What would you like to do when you grow up? Think about it tonight, use your imagination and make a list of the things you can do now to improve yourself, then, pick one of them and start right away.
Tonight we are going to learn about the longest undersea tunnel in the world. This tunnel actually goes under the ground at the bottom of the ocean. England and France and separated by a large area of water called a “channel.” Before the tunnel people had to take boats to go back and forth between the two countries. A long time ago someone had the idea to dig very deep below the ocean and all the way across to the other side. Because it a tunnel and crosses a channel, it was called the “chunnel.”
The first person to have the idea of digging this tunnel a Frechman named Albert Mathieu. At the time they didn’t have large digging machines, so they would have had to do much of it using shovels and horses and wagons. Later, others were going to try to dig the tunnel, at another time some even started to dig from both sides, but France and England didn’t get along so some were worried it would be used to attack the other. For this reason, they waited to start building the tunnel.
Finally, many years later, both England and France agreed on a plan and began digging from both sides of the land. At that time they had better digging machines, so could work much faster digging into the ground and removing all the dirt. Even though the project was very difficult and took a lot of time, both sides kept working and working. It even cost much, much more than they expected, but they were determined to finish the tunnel under the ocean to connect the two countries. They knew once the tunnel was finished it would make moving back and forth very fast and easy. It would also make both of the countries better friends because they could share more things very quickly. Along with digging the tunnel, they began to build train tracks, so a fast moving train could drive between England and French. Engineers had to be very smart and understand everything about the ground and ocean in order to build it. An engineer is someone who goes to school to learn how to build things.
After six years of digging and building, the chunnel was almost complete. Two workers, Graham Fagg and Phillipe Cozette, were chosen to break through the last wall of dirt that connected the two sizes. Many reporters were there as well, since everyone in the world was watching them finish the tunnel. When Graham and Phillipe finished digging through, everyone cheered and gave hugs and celebrated. They were so excited to have the tunnel finally finished. Sometimes even today Graham and Phillipe call each other to remember what an exciting day it was when they helped finish the tunnel.
Soon afterward, the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth, and the President of France, Francois Mitterand, took trains from both sides and met in the middle to shake hands and congratulate each other on the great achievement.
In the end, digging the chunnel cost 16 billion dollars and even the lives of a few of the workers, but it was an amazing accomplishment. At its lowest point it is 250 feet deep. That is the same as 20 houses stacked on top of each other. It is 23 miles long and every day carries people and food and other things back and forth between France and England.
Like the engineers who built the chunnel, you can learn math and science and other subjects that are in important in school. They had to read and study and finish tests the best they could in order to have the knowledge to build the chunnel. You can also learn to work hard like the many workers who helped dig the tunnel and kept going and going even when it was difficult. Always remember great things take time and patience and practice and work.
Tonight our story takes place in the Medieval Times, also called the Middle Ages. This was the time of kings and castles and knights and battles over kingdoms. It was also a time where many people had very little to eat and had to work very hard. In the country of France one of these poor families had a daughter named Joan. Joan worked every day to take care of the animals on their farm and sew and do other things to help the family survive. Young Joan was also very kind and always thinking about others. When others were sick she would visit them and bring them food to help them feel better. She was unselfish. Being unselfish is when you think about others than yourself.
At this time there was a war going on between Joan’s country of France and another country England, who controlled parts of France. From a young age Joan began to feel that she was called to help the people of France be free again. She began to tell her family and other people in her village about her strong beliefs. Soon other villages heard what Joan was saying about freedom and they believed her. She decided to go to the king of France and tell him what she believed. At first the king didn’t want to listen to her but she was persistent. Persistence is when you keep doing something even when it is hard. When the king finally listened to her message of hope, he decided to let her go to battle. They dressed her in armor and put her on an armored horse and sent her off with the other soldiers.
During the battle Joan carried a large flag. When the other soldiers saw Joan’s flag it gave them hope, because they knew it was being carried by the brave young girl who believed France could again be free. Seeing Joan and her flag made them strong and they won battles whenever Joan was there. Joan had courage. Courage is when you do something even though it may be scary or hard.
During one particularly dangerous battle, they had to ride boats past the enemy guns. The wind was weak that day so they were going very slow. The soldiers started to wonder if they would survive and began to panic. Joan stayed positive and spoke to them, encouraging them, reassuring them that it would be alright. Soon the winds picked up and they sailed past the enemy guns without getting hit.
Later during the battle the captains had attacked, but the army was not doing well. Joan heard what was happening and knew they needed her help. She jumped onto her horse and galloped to the front of the battle. There she saw many soldiers who were hurt. She had sympathy for them. Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone and want to help. Joan rode her horse into the battle and the soldiers began to cheer. They fought harder and eventually won the battle. Joan saw the enemy soldiers who had been hurt and tried to help them feel better. She didn’t like seeing people hurt on both sides, even though they were the enemy.
Through many other battles Joan gave the soldiers hope.
Eventually there was peace between France and England. Later Joan was captured and put in jail for a time, but no matter what happened to her, she stood up for her beliefs. There may be times in life that others will laugh at you or say mean things because of what you believe in, but like Joan you can ignore them and stand strong anyway. This is called having conviction.
Like Joan you can be unselfish by thinking about others instead of yourself. You can be brave and have courage when things are scary or hard.
Next time you go to the doctor or take a test, think of how Joan went into battle and did hard things even when they weren’t easy.
Tonight our story is about a boy named Bob Feller. Bob lived on a farm with his family where they grew corn. Bob loved baseball and always looked forward to playing catch with his father after a long day of work. He practiced throwing a baseball everyday, but he always did his chores first. Bob always put his family and his work first because his father taught him the importance of hard work and priorities. Having priorities, means doing important things first such as work and school before other things like playing with toys. Bob’s father saw how good he was becoming at baseball, so he decided to start growing wheat instead of corn because it would give them more time to practice together.
When Bob grew a little older he began playing with a team in his town. An important man with a baseball team saw how fast Bob threw the ball, so he hired him to play for the major league team, the Cleveland Indians. Bob was only 17 years old when he pitched his first major league baseball game. He quickly became well known as one of fastest pitchers in major league baseball. His fastball was recorded to be 104 to 107 miles per hour. That is very fast! Bob Feller also became the first pitcher to win 24 games before the age of 21.
Bob also had a great love for his country. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, Bob joined the United States Navy. The Navy said that Bob didn’t need to go into battle and that he could stay where it was safe, but Bob said he wanted to be with the other soldiers where he could fight for his country. He was assigned to a battleship. When the war ended, Bob received many awards for his hard work.
After the war, Bob returned to playing with the Cleveland Indians and in 1948 they won World Series which is the biggest championship in baseball. Bob was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball. He said that his skill and speed in pitching came from hard work milking cows, picking corn, and baling hay on his family farm. Even with all Bob’s success in baseball, he always put important things before baseball, such as his family and his country.
Like Bob you can put important things first in your life, such as helping around the house, learning new things, and helping others. You can also practice at sports or other talents in order to become good like Bob. Practice is what you do to become better at something. Bob Feller showed us that even when someone becomes famous, they can still think about others by serving their country and doing good things.