About Lightning Strikes

Monday, June 15, 2015

Searching for excellent biographies for kids

I am searching for excellent biographies written for upper-elementary age children. I seem to have many examples of less than excellent biographies. I'm hoping readers of this post will offer some suggestions.

I would like to find this type of biography to use both as mentor texts and for research purposes. One of the writing projects our 4th graders do is a research project on a subject related to the American Revolution. Many of the students choose to research a person and write a biography. Over the years as I have read more biographies written for adult readers, I realize the limitations of many of the children's biographies about those same people. Some are not accurate, or not complete. Some are just not terribly interesting to read.

I am a fan of the blog Two Writing Teachers, and when I read this post on "Teaching Authentic Information Writing," I realized the ideas applied to writing for children, as well as teaching children to write. The post is about a presentation by author Ralph Fletcher, on how to help young writers find the story in their nonfiction topics to create lively written work with a personal voice and without getting trapped into reciting a list of facts. This is exactly the type of writing that many authors of new biographies and books about history, such as David McCullough's and David Hackett Fischer, to name just two, are writing now. They are fun to read, as opposed to what I remember from when I was in school.

In our research project, we require each student to read at least two sources on his/her topic. One source is usually a below grade level book that can be read quickly to get an overview of the person's life. I like the books of David Adler (A Picture Book of...) for this part of the research. The second source is usually a chapter book. The purposes of the second book are to find more details and to learn about the importance of using more than one source. It's always interesting when students find discrepancies between sources and need to decide how to handle them.

I am therefore looking for strong examples of biographies for younger readers. I collect books about the American Revolution for this project, but I would love to have excellent biographies for my class library a to use as mentor texts and to inspire my students to read more nonfiction. If you know of biographies that fit my description, please leave a comment giving the title and author. Thank you in advance!

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