It’s a privilege to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. To really understand life as they see it and live it. Autobiographies and biographies offer an excellent opportunity to do that. I have always appreciated reading biographies with my children.
We started off in their early years reading all of D’Aulaire’s well-written and illustrated books like Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Leif the Lucky, Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill and Pocohantas. Then, each year, they read a few on their own about historical figures like Albert Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt, Abigail Adams, Galileo, and all the books by Diane Stanley. Getting to Know the World’s Famous Artists, Composers, or Scientists and Inventors is also a fun series for kids.
But in addition to their assigned school readings, I always encourage them to seek out biographies on their own. Gabe has read about people like Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash, and Jeremy Lin. Jadyn is interested in women figures, and has enjoyed learning about Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rachel Carson. Isaac likes learning about athletes like Shawn White.
And I also just love searching for new picture book biographies on my own to read aloud to them all periodically. Just browsing the biography section in the library offers countless options. (We recently read about Noah Webster, Frank Baum, Hans Christian Anderson, and Frida Kahlo.)
We get to see that there are certain patterns in one’s journey to success or influence. A particular upbringing is not usually the determining factor – the personality and character of the individual, however, is always apparent – a unique talent, a drive to persevere and weather the odds, a patience, an authentic belief in what they stand for. Those are the things that matter.
Many times, their impact is not noticed during their lifetime, but what perspective it offers our kids to understand that perhaps some of what they choose to pursue might prove most meaningful at some future time in history.