Saturday, January 12, 2013

Neil Armstrong by Dana Meachan Rau

I have recently been introducing my second graders to the biography section of our library and pulled three lower-reading level titles for them to choose from:  Benjamin Franklin, Wilma Rudolph, and Neil Armstrong.  (I love giving them a choice--and they seem to appreciate it too.)  After a brief intro to biography* in general and the mechanics of the biography section (ABC order by last name of person its about. . .), I introduced the concept of copyright date--how to find it in a book and why it is important.  This book was published in 2003.  When we found the date, I told them to remember it because it would be important.  (*Most of my students have already been introduced to biography in their classrooms as early as first grade, so this is largely a chance to ask them to tell me what a biography is and fill in some blanks if necessary.) 

For an intro to biography, this title has been one of the better ones for my younger readers.  The facts were interesting, the pictures good (for large group read-aloud, some of the pictures would be too small for them to see without a document camera), and the title included a title page, a glossary and index. That said, I would not want to use it without an appropriate lesson about the importance of copyright date and using multiple sources when researching for reports.  I led the students in a discussion to think about how much can change in a person's life in one year, two years, or ten years and asked them if they thought that some things might have changed.  They seemed to think on that for a moment or so and then agreed that things could have indeed changed.  Then I turned to the page that mentioned that Mr. Armstrong lives in Ohio (present tense).  Putting the ball in their court, I asked the students if they thought it was a good idea to use only one source for a research project.  I just hope that they remember this example.  What I liked about this title is that it gave pertinent information that many biographies for younger readers tend to leave out--specifically, when and where the person was born.  (Come on publishers--when teachers ask a young student to do a biography report, those are two facts that they would usually like to have, and too many of the bios written for the younger reader leave that info out.)   

Interesting to note, one of my 2nd graders wanted to know why the book did not include the famous quote about "one small step for man."  I was tickled that he knew the quote in the first place, and it led into an interesting discussion about how authors choose what to include and what to leave out. 

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