Saturday, April 20, 2013

Can Living Books Teach History?

I read this common question, or variations, in my inbox this time of year, every year. I usually answer something like:

Question: As I start the look into what we will do next year. I have been thinking about history. Next year I will have a 4th,2nd, and 1st grader. Someone mentioned Childhood of Famous Americans to me. I am looking for something to do maybe twice a week as the other days we have other activities. Could you comment on my thoughts.

Reading aloud returns great rewards. Auditory processing, the ability to process what is heard, develops as children listen to audio materials. Comprehension improves as participants ask questions and retell parts of the story. Vocabulary builds as the reader explains unknown words. Attention span increases as listeners sit eager to hear a story unfold. Relationships deepen as reader and listeners share emotions, thoughts and ideas. Reading aloud returns great rewards at any age. 

In response to the question raised by this mom (and many others like her now considering their curriculum choices for the coming year), she was specifically interested in Childhood of Famous Americans (the hardcovers if you can find them), for the ages posted. Older children may be interested in the Landmark books, biographies in the Signature series or We Were There books.

With the ages stated, these books can be read, comprehended and enjoyed together, as a family. Each child will gather details they find most intriguing. In our home we read in the afternoon before Dad comes home while toddler is still napping or later in the evening right before bed after jammies are on and teeth are brushed. Little eyes and bodies relaxed, transition to bed is easy. Family read-aloud time offers priceless memories of siblings and parents snuggled in the living room, reading.

Reading COFAs is a way to learn history and science. Children quickly become interested in COFA stories because the main characters are introduced as children. As to which title to choose, it is beneficial if the child chooses which title he would like to read first. Children are more likely to engage immediately and intently if their interest is piqued. Remember the content of COFAs lend themselves to history and science. Often as parents read, children begin to think how they can "study" the subject in more detail, maybe designing a lapbook, maybe helping to create a unit study, maybe acting out a historical event or dressing up as the main character, maybe simply checking out library books on the subject for deeper learning. 

If the listener is a reader, he or she may become so interested that independent reading may become a personal motivation. The result may be heading to the home library shelf to choose another independent read. COFAs make great independent reads, encouraging reading growth and fluency while learning history.

Younger readers, not quite ready to read a COFA independently, may enjoy choosing a similar title in the Step-Up book series. The reading level is lower than COFAs and make great reads for emerging readers. They are well-written and kids LOVE the content. 

Can history be studied reading "living books", books which allow the listener/reader to journey alongside characters? Absolutely! In fact, it is the stories our children have "lived" that are best remembered. 

No comments:

Post a Comment