- Reading biographies teaches children about other countries of the world and their culture. Reading about a man like Sundar Singh will teach the reader the culture of the Indian and Tibetan people. A poor child, in particular, may never get to travel to India or Tibet, but as he reads a biography, he can learn so much about the land where the individual lived.
- Reading biographies makes learning history interesting. Who wants to study textbooks and learn about times in history by reading short paragraphs summaries about interesting events? Vicariously living in history through reading biographies is so much more exciting and memorable.
- Reading biographies provides children strong examples of good character in action. A parent or teacher can find historical figures who have displayed specific character qualities and personally choose biographies with the intent of developing character in their own child or student. If one wanted to teach their child the quality of compassion, they might choose to read the biography of Amy Carmichael. Of course, discussing the ways that Amy displayed compassion in her life will further develop the child’s awareness of compassion. Finishing by asking how they could develop this quality would help the student to personalize the quality and apply it to his life.
- Reading biographies allows children to study leadership skills of great leaders. The best way to learn leadership skills is to observe great leaders. While one cannot go back in time to study the ways of General Douglas MacArthur or George Washington, for example, but we can study the lives that they lead and the choices they made by reading biographies written about them.
- Reading biographies will grow empathy in your child’s heart. When your child reads biographies, he will be able to experience so many other situations of life that it will help him to be able to feel how other people feel in various situations. As authors write about individuals they often include thoughts the character would have been thinking, so even if your child does not willingly empathize, the author will teach them this skill.
Today we spent some time talking about this week’s character quality, composure, the ability to remain calm in the middle of confusion and frustration. After lunch I was reading with my third grade daughter. We started this biography of George Washington Carver.
We took turns reading paragraphs in chapter one. In one of the early paragraphs my daughter came across one of this week’s spelling words. We continued reading, and in the last paragraph of chapter one, the author talked about Susan Carver trying to keep her composure as she cared for George after his mother had been kidnapped. It is just a sweet blessing in my days when this happens, and I can hardly believe how frequently it happens. Thank you, LORD!
As I have mentioned recently, I am purposefully focusing on character development in our education this year. As a result of this decision, I ordered To Every Nation by Kim Sorgius for my 7th grader to use for social studies this year. I made this choice with a little bit of hesitation, not because of the book, but because my 7th grader has bucked a bit about reading biographies in the past. Over the weekend I showed my daughter To Every Nation on the Not Consumed web site. (Here) She didn’t complain. (YAY!!!) Since there are 12 biographies to read , she will need to read 1 biography and complete the accompanying pages of To Every Nation every 3 weeks. I pointed out to my daughter that when she has completed the biography assigned for a given 3 week period, the rest of the time she can read a book of her choice until it is time to begin a new biography. My daughter did ask if she could just read all 12 biographies and To Every Nation back-to-back and then read other books the rest of the year. I find that agreeable, so we made that change of plans.
Monday morning, she began reading the biography of Hudson Taylor. Two times she has brought up to me specifics about Hudson Taylor that she didn’t understand or agree with, and she did ask if she had to finish the book. I reminded her that she doesn’t have to agree with every decision Hudson Taylor made, but to finish the book and see how God used that choice in his life or ministry. Thankfully she continued on without much complaint.
On Tuesday, To Every Nation arrived, and my 7th grader commented that she liked the book. (This is good.) She even commented that she likes the feel of the cover. 🙂 I spent some time looking through the entire book, and I was so glad to see specific character qualities being highlighted for each of the 12 missionaries studied. These qualities each have a special focus – endurance, virtue, honor, forgiveness, faith, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, service, compassion, patience, and contentment. What needed topics to cover with our children!
For each Christian Hero biography that is read, Kim has a 2 page biographical sketch, 2 pages regarding the country where the individual served and their ministry, a timeline page, a page spotlighting the quality being studied (including personal application!!), and copywork of a verse that fits the quality focused on. This makes 8 pages each for the 12 individuals being studied. I am praying that the LORD will use the study of these missionaries and our God to help my daughter grow and develop her character.
At the conclusion of this class, I plan to post a follow-up post with my daughter’s and my feedback about this class. Stay tuned!
*The only textbooks / curriculum I will promote on my blog are what I am willing to use, am using, or have already used in our home. I will include an affiliate link if I am an affiliate.
This morning our 5 year old and I walked Daddy to the car when he left for work. Everyone else was still sleeping. As we walked inside, he asked me to sit on the porch while he played in the back yard. We have had an enjoyable hour and a half to ourselves. (!)
I brought my phone and the Book of Virtues with me. I was intending to get my Bible reading in and skim the Book of Virtues for a literature idea I am working on. I can’t say that I accomplished either completely, but I did get some thinking in.
On the page following the introduction to the Book of Virtues, William Bennett shared a portion from Plato’s Republic. Since I have been working to focus more on developing character through our schoolwork, Plato’s words really grabbed my attention.
“Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up? We cannot….Anything received into the mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable, and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts…”
As I think about his writing and particularly what the Bible says about our thinking in Philippians 4:8, I see a 2 part determination that must be present in our reading choices and literature classes for our families.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
We must determine 2 things.
1. We must not present our children favorable examples of bad character in our reading choices. (or viewing choices!)
It is for this reason, when my oldest children were young we decided not to watch particular programs (even on PBS!), because the producers made the parent(s) look like idiots or because a bratty child was not corrected and disciplined. It is for this reason that I do not offer reading choices which include profanity, witchcraft, or anti-God themes.
2. We MUST also teach our children to choose to read (and think) on things that pass the Philippians 4:8 test. You will notice the verse does not say “don’t think on bad things.” It says, “think on these things.”
Is this honest?
Is this just?
Is this pure?
Is this lovely
Is this a good report?
Is this a virtue we should model?
Is this praiseworthy?
For me, this means I am not offering my children literature such as Harry Potter. It means we don’t watch Caillou and Arthur. (There are other books and videos that are ruled out, but those are the ones that came to mind just now.)
For us, this is why we love to read biographies of great people in history and virtuous literature. This is why my kids love to watch “Friends and Heroes” and read the Jesus Storybook Bible.
How would you apply this to your reading and tv viewing choices? What woud you leave out? What will you pursue?