March 10, 2012

Why read biographies?

Every summer we pick a reading challenge for each of our kids.  The summer between fifth and sixth grade has been "Biography Summer".  Ciaran is coming up on that this year and I am beginning now to try to encourage him to be excited for it. So far my enthusiasm has not been contagious, even Maria's good reviews have not helped.  The summer Maria read biographies she averaged about 3-5 juvenile non-fiction books a week because she found she really enjoyed them. For Ciaran I am going to require 1-2 a week, maybe he will find a similar passion for reading them. Like it or not he will be reading biographies this summer.  Here is to hoping he enjoys them :) 

Why biographies? They are a unique way to teach kids about invention, creativity, ingenuity, fame, power, and gifts of all sorts.  Biographies offer people to relate to, real life examples of success, and a different approach to learning history.  Giving the student freedom to pick the biography allows them to learn more about areas they are passionate about and discover some new areas of interest.

I do not pick the biographies.  I bring the student to the biography section and make them select a variety of individuals across different disciplines.  The only rule is the biographies must be varied and about someone you already do not know a lot about.  It is fine if you pick an athlete, an artist, a scientist, an inventor and a politician.  The point is to learn about a variety of disciplines through the story of a specific person. I also find that by requiring them to read so many biographies at once they start to discover the similarities of famous people across disciplines.  I like encouraging inter-disciplinary thinking and studies whenever possible and reading a variety of biographies is one easy way to do so.

I find even as an adult I still enjoy reading biographies.  It helps me understand some of the similarities and differences  between the lives of famous people.  I enjoy seeing the creative ways different people approach solving different problems and questions they face.  I enjoy learning about the creativity and determination and discipline of many different people throughout history, both ancient and modern. I enjoy my kids discovering the same sorts of things for themselves.

If you have never read biographies yourself I encourage you to try.  Your library is full of them.  Encourage your kids to read biographies and then discuss them together.  You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.  

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