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Breaking Down Biography

The next couple of weeks and months we celebrate so many famous and remarkable people. We start off with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in January. Then we head into February when we celebrate Black History Month and Presidents’ Day. As if that weren’t enough, March then rolls around, and we recognize the contributions of many amazing women during Women’s History Month.

There are so many people and so much history to cover in such a short span of time. So here are some suggestions to get you started in learning about some of the incredible people who will be, or could be, recognized in the upcoming weeks.


Young Readers:

Even very young children can begin to learn about famous people. The My First Biography collection (parents | teachers) is a great place to start. In this collection students can begin to read about Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther King Jr., and Benjamin Franklin. There is even a five-book pack of Storia eBooks that can be purchased that includes all of these people.

When we think of very young readers, we don’t usually think of biography. I can guarantee that most people would never think to give a young child a biography to read. Adults, myself included, don’t always give young children enough credit when it comes to learning. I am amazed on a daily basis by what my daughter remembers from our conversations about things I think are way over her head. If young children are given the opportunity to learn the basics about some famous people early on, it will set them up to dig deeper as they grow as readers.

These easy-to-read books have between one and three sentences per page, and beautiful pictures depicting the story of the subject’s life. They will definitely capture young readers’ attention and help them begin to explore the wonderful genre of biography.


Chapter Book Readers:

Biography is a difficult genre to read since there are so many facts to sort through, not to mention having to understand the time period in which someone lived to understand why they are so important. So giving a child a book that is below their independent reading level is okay. This gives them the opportunity to really digest the information presented in the book. For this reason, I am recommending Always Inventing: The True Story of Thomas Alva Edison by Frank Murphy (parents | teachers) and Harriet Tubman by Catherine Nichols (parents | teachers) for chapter-book readers.


These two eBooks have one to two simple paragraphs on each page that are accompanied by colorful pictures that give a visual for what is being discussed on each page. They give elementary-school readers a chance to get a bit more information about a subject with the helpful aspects of a picture book, but having the look of a chapter book without being overwhelmed by long chapters. I think they are a combination of the best of both worlds.


Advanced Readers:

I really love the I Am collection of books for advanced biography readers. They include maps, timelines, and charts of important people in the subject’s life right in the beginning of the book. This sets up the reader to be successful and have references to refer back to during reading. The chapters are clear, and at the end of the book there are lists of ten things you should know about the subject, as well as ten extra cool facts that relate to the subject. Kids love these sections! 

I Am Albert Einstein (parents | teachers) and I Am Sacagawea (parents | teachers) by Grace Norwich are two of the eBooks that I have in my Storia collection. They are visually pleasing and exciting to read. My students are engaged while reading them, and love all the extra features in the books. I highly recommend these two biographies for advanced readers.

Writing Biography:

If your child’s class is getting ready to write biography, a great eBook to download and read through is Unbreakable Bonds: The Hero’s Legacy. This book is a collection of biographies written by children about the important people in their lives. They will give your child an example of a child’s take on biography, and inspire them to write their own. 

Biography is one of my favorite genres to read, and it can be a favorite for your child too. I know when I introduce the fact that we will be studying biography in my classroom, I always get the groan at first. But when we start to delve into the lives of such fascinating people, the kids can’t help but want to read more…read-aloud takes a bit longer these days! That’s okay with me though. I hope you enjoy one of these biographies with your children over the next few weeks when there are so many intriguing people to discuss, read about, and discover.


Happy eReading!


About Laura Murray:

Laura Murray is a fourth-grade teacher in Paramus, New Jersey. This is her second year using Storia in her classroom and at home with her daughter, and she loves it! We hope you join in with comments about her ideas for using Storia with your children.




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January 16, 2013