Lately, my kids have been picking out their own books when we go to the library. They definitely have their preferred genres. My daughter insists on princess books. My son prefers all of the informational texts about sports, as well as a variety of picture books.
I was feeling the need to help diversify our present collection on our last trip to the library. Knowing that International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8th, I decided to peruse the biography stacks for some interesting texts.
Let me just say–WOW! Biographies have come a looooong way since I was a kid. If you haven’t checked out biographies in the juvenile section, do yourself a solid + check it out next time you’re at the library.
More than anything, I was so impressed by my kids’ excitement when they walked into the playroom + found all of the biographies on display. And it got me thinking that more families should give biographies a try because I don’t think ours is the only one that would have faun with them.
With all of that said, I totally get that your family may be in a totally different place in terms of your routines around reading at home, so here are some of my tips to help make introducing your children to biographies a little more approachable.
Any time you are grabbing a selection of informational texts, try to select a few within the same category. In this case, I grabbed biographies about women + girls. I just as easily could’ve done artists, athletes, inventors, or kids who have changed the world. Go with something your kids already have an interest in!
There are few kids I have come across that don’t like picture books. Even when I taught middle school, students loved it when we read picture books. Trust me, if you want to get your kids to try a new genre that they don’t gravitate toward, try to ease into it with picture books.
You don’t need a fancy bookshelf (but I really do like these acrylic bookshelves. A lot. : ) to display books. In my classroom, I just stand them up on the counter beneath a window or on top of a bookshelf. Wherever you choose to have them out, make sure it’s in a room where your kids spend a lot of downtime. It’s more likely that they’ll pick up the books in those instances than if they’re in a room they aren’t already hanging out in.
Whenever I pick up books for my kids, I don’t make them read them. I prefer to let them explore at their own pace + with their own interest taking the lead. If I find they aren’t picking the books up at all, I might just pick one up + start reading it in front of them. This usually gets a, “What are you doing, Mom? Can I read that, too?” Or, I’ll recruit one willing child + usually the other will join in.
I often have parents ask about how to support reading at home. The very most important thing you can do is to read at home. On top of that, I think having a reflective conversation that is authentic + meaningful is very worth your while. I created a whole IGTV video that you can watch here + I talk in-depth about having these conversations with your kids around biographies. Definitely check out the video, but if you want my quick list of guiding questions these are it:
How did your thinking change as a result of what you learned from (insert name)?
Did (name) make decisions or choices that you agreed with? Disagreed with?
How else could (name) have acted? How would their outcome have been different? What would you have done differently?
What lessons did (name) learn? What did you learn from that?
Were you able to understand events better by seeing them through the eyes of (name)?
Sometimes when we try something new our kids aren’t ready for it. And that’s okay. Be patient. In this case, leave the books out for a few days. The next time you go to the library, build a new collection with a different theme. Little by little, your kids will take notice + you will see what sparks their interest. Build on that. Change is slow, but it happens. Stick with it.
In case you’re interested in the titles I grabbed specifically for International Women’s Day, here are all of your titles + links!
In case you don’t have time to access these titles but are interested in bringing in some learning about influential women + girls, here are some other great sources!
The Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls podcast: Featuring longer, more detailed biographies about the women from the book series + narrated by modern-day female heroes!
The Who Was? series on Netflix There are episodes on Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette, Amelia Earhart, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, Frida Kahlo, + Marie Curie)
Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: This show on PBS Kids is based on the I Am series by Brad Meltzer!
Epic Books is a paid subscription for families, but free for teachers. If your child doesn’t have access to this site definitely pass it along to their teacher! You can always sign up for your own subscription, but I’m always about saving some money. 🙂 They have TONS of e- + audiobooks. There are biographies including Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Warren, Ellen Ochoa, Gabby Douglas, + Nina Simone.
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