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When I was in junior high, I devoured almost the entire biography section at the school library. There was something about them that my socially clueless self found irresistible.
In these stories I found kindred spirits, brave revolutionaries, strong leaders, creative inventors, and a safe space to try and understand this utterly befuddling world around me. It was a break from 12 year old hormones and pettiness and a chance to see people celebrated by their kindness and brains, not how short their cheerleading skirt was.
Now, as a mom of a kid who is asynchronous, I’ve been bringing biographies into our routine for a few reasons.
1. Biographies help with empathy.
Good biographies not only list accomplishments – they try to get to the heart of who a person is/was – their motivations and struggles. For kids who struggle with empathy or perspective taking, biographies can be an amazing resource. They spell out reasons for behavior instead of relying on inference.
2. Biographies connect.
Gifted kids often feel isolated. They have trouble finding people who have similar interests (like a 6 year old who loves chemistry) or who dive deep into advanced topics, asking questions no one has asked.
They find friends in these books, people who think like they do. The biographies that emphasize the younger years are especially good for this, like
Kid Presidents – and this whole series – we loved Kid Artists and Kid Scientists too!
3. Biographies build resilience.
Gifted kids are often perfectionists. They are used to doing things easily and naturally and often don’t know how to handle mistakes or failures.
Books where people struggle, try again and again, and finally get it right can help build growth mindset and resilience.
4. Biographies broaden world views and create possibilities.
There’s nothing like reading someone else’s story to start thinking about your own. If they can overcome struggles, than I can too. It’s why the stories of early struggle and later success are so inspiring –
Michael Jordan not making the basketball team
Einstein failing math
People love those stories for good reason. They show what’s possible, that people’s lives can change, that their present reality doesn’t need to be the final story.
5. Biographies provide role models.
When we connect with people, even through their autobiographies, they can inspire and challenge us.
My son’s favorite poet is Jack Prelutsky. His book Of Pizza, Pigs & Poetry is a mix of biographical anecdotes and writing tips. Every time he pulls it out, my son is inspired to write poetry.
When we read about others with similar interests who go on to do great things, that makes us more willing to try hard things as well.
One of my favorite series for this is the Who Is/Was series by Penguin Random House.
My son loves how he can connect them with whatever he’s learning, so most recently we borrowed all the president books from the library. Before that, all the inventors and scientists have found their way home with us. When we were getting ready to go to the Dr Seuss museum, we borrowed
If you’re looking at the Ordinary People Change the World Series, Cait shares over at Bookshark about biographies and her favorite series for the elementary crowd here: https://www.bookshark.com/blog/biographies/
Alicia at Learning Well Community has a great list of biographies for kids if you want to see what their favorites are! This is a wonderful … and extensive… list!
Cindy shares some gorgeous biographies from Candlewick Press and how she uses them even with her older children to teach writing: https://ourjourneywestward.com/picture-books-teach-biography-writing/
Read Aloud Revival has a podcast and selected list of 70 picture book biographies.
… More book ideas can be found in Nice Books for Nice Kids and Books with Quirky Characters.
This post has been part of Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hops for December 2018.
5 Comments Add yours
What a great observation. Going to add this into the routine.
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