Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fascinating Lives

Some children are perpetually drawn to fiction while others are diehard non-fiction fans. Biographies can form a great bridge between the two since they tell a story, but one based on fact. These days there are more wonderful biographies available than ever before on a wider range of individuals than in the past. No longer must children slog through dry texts about a few hallowed individuals who come across as remote and super-human. Young people today can read about ordinary people as well as learning about the human side of well-known names from history.

Currently 2nd and 3rd graders at Open Window are in the middle of a biography unit. We are focusing primarily on people from around the world whom students are not likely to have heard of. These books have led to some interesting discussions as we reflect on what we can learn from each person’s life.

One common thread that emerges from many stories is persistence and risk-taking in the face of adversity. From John Stetson’s great creativity brought to life in Boss of the Plains: The Hat That Won the West by Laurie Carlson to the fascinating story of Sephardic Jews who intermarried with Gullah Islanders described in Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History by Carolivia Herron, students have remarked on the ways in which people hold fast to their dreams and do not let setbacks overwhelm them. Perhaps this was best summed up in Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston, which quotes Soichiro Honda as saying “I have always had a stronger interest in the work than the money.”

Some great biographies that we did not have time to read include:

  • The Boy on Fairfield Street by Kathleen Krull
  • Hidden Child by Isaac Millman
  • Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali by Khephra Burns
  • She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer by Sally Hobart Alexander
  • Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln by Judith St. George
  • Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta 1325-1354 by James Rumford
  • Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates by M. D. Usher

No comments: