Get Real! Let’s Talk About Biographies
by Lisa McAllister
Whether your child is an independent reader or a snuggler who likes being read to on your lap, reading can be a dialog starter between the two of you. Fostering communication with your child on a wide variety of topics will yield a positive return. A child who is engaged and thirsty for knowledge will be poised for lifelong success. Books are windows to worlds beyond their own experience and frame of reference, and they provide an opportunity for young readers to encounter vocabulary words not generally used in their daily routine.
While it’s fun to read books about the friendship between a certain elephant and pig (Gerald and Piggie) or the adventures of a colorful-icious girl (i.e. Pinkalicious), try mixing things up by selecting a variety of books. Consider wandering the stacks at your local library, and perhaps moving away from the traditional picture book collection over to the nonfiction shelves. They’re not just for the older kids! A great way to start is by finding the 92s. In the world of Dewey Decimal, that would be the Biography section. You and your child will discover there are many terrific biographies that unite engaging illustrations with well written informational text. Reading about real people who accomplished great things is inspirational, no matter your age.
Choosing a biography doesn’t necessarily have to align with an interest. You might just scan the shelves for something eye-catching. Go ahead, judge a book by its cover! Check out the cover art for Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey. It’s bright and splashy, and it’s about a royal mermaid! What? Yes! But it gets better because it’s the TRUE story of Annette Kellerman, an athlete, who at a young age took to the water like a fish to the sea. She won races and set records before discovering her love of dancing — in the water! She created the artistic sport of water ballet, and shared her talent around the world, eventually inspiring others to join her. Today water ballet, or synchronized swimming, is also open to men, and is an Olympic sport.
Whoosh! by Chris Barton is the true tale of inventor Lonnie Johnson, a NASA engineer, who not only built a robot from scratch, but created one of summertime’s best toys — the Super Soaker! Learn about the challenges Johnson faced and how he worked hard doing what he loved — solving problems.
Baseball season is in full swing, making it the perfect time for reading Miracle Mud by David A. Kelly. This is the story of Lena Blackburne, who set out to be a famous baseball player and ended up discovering a special secret mud that, when rubbed on baseballs, made them less slick and more manageable. Lena never made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but his mud did, securing his place in history.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is the story of puppeteer Tony Sarg. If you’ve ever enjoyed the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving morning, you are familiar with Sarg’s work. This picture book explains how his childhood toy marionettes became his inspiration for the larger-than-life balloons that float down Broadway.
And since you’re checking out books from the library, take a look at Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough, the inspiring story of the woman who created libraries for children. The happy illustrations have a folk art feel (illustrated by Debby Atwell) and they serve to enhance the historical account of Annie Carroll Moore’s New England upbringing, and her eventual move to New York City. Hers was the first library intended for children. She filled the shelves with exciting books for children and the room with child-sized furniture. And she did not shush them for speaking! Sharing the story of Miss Moore with your children is the perfect preface to taking a road trip to visit libraries around the state of Connecticut.
When you’re making plans for this summer’s adventures, pencil in the Scranton Library. Located on the shoreline in scenic Madison, the library is a cornerstone of the charming downtown area, and just a stone’s throw from Hammonassett State Beach and the Greenway Trail. If you’re visiting on July 15, join us at the Town Green for Touch-a-Truck, an exciting family event, especially for those with a passion for things that go. Experience a close encounter with a variety of vehicles! Keep an eye on Scranton Library’s website for more details as the date approaches. And, beginning in June, see the entire lineup of summer events and activities for families and kids at www.scrantonlibrary.org. The Scranton Library is located at 801 Boston Post Road. For more information, call 203-245-8722.
Lisa McAllister is the Assistant Children's Librarian at the E.C. Scranton Memorial Library.