Nonfiction, Resources
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Choosing Biographies

Deshawn comes home from school with a dreaded school book report assignment: biographies.

Leyla needs to diversify her fantasy reading, and Dad thinks biographies are the ticket.

Homeschool mom is trying to enrich history this year, but there are so many biographies out there! Where to start?

Biographies Everywhere!

Thanks to the recent national emphasis on “informational texts” for education (thank you, Common Core), biographies for children and teens have exploded. We now have a great problem: where to start? How do we choose biographies that are worth reading, as opposed to simply checking the “biography” box? What makes a great biography compared to a suitable, but boring, biography?

The Most Important Question about Biographies

The most important question is “Why?” Why are you choosing to read biographies in the first place? The answer to this deceptively simple question is surprisingly important.

Do you want to read a biography to:

  • learn about the specific person and his/her character?
  • learn about a particular time period through the lens of a particular person?
  • learn about a particular time period through anyone that lived through it?
  • learn about any famous person in a particular field? (i.e. a mathematician, scientist, missionary, etc.)
  • offer choices for extra curricular projects when students have to “read a biography”?
  • offer enrichment choices for a study in a particular area (such as history of missions)?
  • expand understanding of something like church history as a family?
  • read a literary work that you’ve heard great things about (such as a Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer or Walter Isaacson’s work on Einstein or…)?
  • offer short enrichment to expand a study of history/art/science/etc.?(short picture book biographies are terrific here, by the way!)

Your Homework

We’ll be back next week with more practical considerations as well as information about the different types of biographies available and the best places to find them. Knowing why you want to read a biography, though, will help you narrow down all the information to what’s most helpful for YOU. Stay tuned!

But wait! I want to read a biography NOW!

No problem–we have reviewed lots of biographies over the years, heaps and heaps. Try one of the following:

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