Importance of Reading Biographies/Memoirs to Kids
There is a tremendous amount of fantastic children’s literature available for kids of all ages and backgrounds. Many school-age kids are exposed to books in their classrooms, through friends, at the library, and from their families. Younger children who can’t read just yet on their own often rely on their parents, older siblings, or other caretakers to choose reading material.
Understandably, fiction stories make up the bulk of the books that children read. Fiction is entertaining, imaginative, and an important part of the overall experience of reading. However, it’s also important for children to be exposed to reading other material such as biographies and/or memoirs. A biography is a non-fiction account of the life of a historical figure that is written by someone else. For example, biographies may be written about political leaders, activists, sports figures, artists, explorers, etc. Memoirs are books written by the historical figures themselves.
This type of writing may seem much less exciting than a fictional work, especially for children. What many don’t realize though is that stories about real historical people can be just as interesting and fascinating as fiction, if not more so. Biographies are typically inspirational as well as educational in terms of human history, development, and progress. These stories connect us by exposing readers to diverse people and experiences which expands and enhances our worldview.
Why Should Kids Read Different Types of Books?
This is a common question among parents, especially those whose children struggle with or don’t appear to enjoy reading. Even some educators maintain that, as long as a child is reading (or listening to someone else read), then the types of books they are reading shouldn’t matter. In a way, this is the same logic as someone claiming that as long as a child is eating then the types of foods they eat shouldn’t matter.
Of course, children should be reading what they enjoy, especially new or reluctant readers. And publishers have capitalized on this by mastering the serialization of children’s literature. This means that if a certain character, genre, or plot device becomes popular then it can be turned into a seemingly endless series of books with the same formulas. Some examples of this are The Magic Treehouse series and “Junie B. Jones.” When children discover that they enjoy these books, they are drawn to each sequel; they find comfort in the familiarity of the characters and story because they know what to expect. This is not a negative experience whatsoever, particularly if these series foster a love of reading.
However, committing to one or a few book series can lead to the exclusion of other valuable reading material. It can also interfere with acquisition of vocabulary, reading comprehension, and diversity in understanding storytelling. The cost of not introducing a variety of books to children is the subsequent limitation of their reading experience and potential resistance to reading anything outside their favorite series in the long-term.
Why Biographies/Memoirs Are Important to Introduce as Reading Material
Some parents, caregivers, and educators may not feel confident in helping children choose other types of books such as biographies and memoirs for fear that it will interfere with their overall desire to read. There are two ways to overcome this obstacle:
1. Start Early
When children are young and dependent on others for reading, this is the best opportunity for introducing reading material other than fiction, such as biographies/memoirs. This method is particularly effective if their readers are engaged in the material, willing to answer questions, discuss interesting elements, and explain concepts. This not only encourages a child’s connection to the genre and subject of biography, but it also inspires them to connect with others through learning and history.
2. Read Together
If your child is already an independent reader, it can be difficult to lead them to reading biography/memoir by merely suggesting it—especially if they are unfamiliar with this genre. In this case, the best course of action is for parents and/or educators to read a book with them (not to them). Kids truly enjoy when the people around them take an interest in doing something together, such as reading the same book. You can treat this method like a book club in which the “members” read independently and then get together to discuss their ideas and reactions. This allows everyone involved to take part in the learning process and enjoyment of reading a different type of book.
Even if your child doesn’t warm to or gravitate towards biography/memoir, at least they will have opened their mind to that type of subject and genre. Just as trying different foods leads to a variety of experiences, so does trying different books. It’s important to remember that children are not only learning how to read words and language, but they are also learning how reading can open their minds to new information and concepts.
One of the best ways to encourage an open mind and love of learning in children of all ages is offering activities that are both fun and challenging, such as strategic board games and interesting puzzles. At Cognisprings, we support parents and their children with games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed, educational, and unique. Our products allow families to connect with each other and enhance a child’s understanding of the world. They are also excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and literacy skills.
Here are some great biographies not to be missed.