Jen Gargan is a second-grade teacher and graduate student studying to become a Specialist Teacher of Reading. She holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and History. In today’s guest post, she shares some of her favorite non-fiction texts about Eleanor Roosevelt and suggests ways to use them in your classroom.
Round Up: Eleanor Roosevelt
by Jen Gargan
I recently took a graduate class on non-fiction. In this class, we examined the construction of non-fiction texts, as well as their use in classrooms. Biographies are one great type of non-fiction text to introduce to students. In my teaching experience, I have found that students become very interested in learning about the life of a different person. In this round-up, I looked at several biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt geared toward the elementary audience.
Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World
By The Editors of Time for Kids with Dina El Nabli
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2006
This book is featured in a set of Time for Kids biographies titled, Women in World War II. I found this book appealing for many young readers as an introduction to a common non-fiction format. The book is divided into chronological chapters. It contains a variety of non-fiction text features and provides an overview of Eleanor’s entire life. It also contains sidebars about historical events of the time, which help situate early readers in this time period. I have found with my own students that historical biographies can be confusing if they do not know about the social, political, or economic climate of the time period in which the person was living. I think adding sidebars was a good addition to this book. This text, however, is not well sourced and contains minor factual errors. It is a standard mass-produced biography that lacks some originality in its construction. That being said, I would recommend this as a student text for biography research or pleasure reading for students in grade 2-4 because of its logical format and readability.
For more information about the Time for Kids series: http://www.timeforkids.com/homework-helper/a-plus-papers/biography
Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt?
By Gare Thompson
Illustrated by Elizabeth Wolf
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, 2004
I felt compelled to include this in my round-up because this series is so popular in elementary schools. When I taught third grade two years ago, this series was a favorite in my class. The consistent format makes this a very attractive book set for elementary readers just learning about biographies. They also lend themselves well to research for biography projects. In terms of looking at this book critically, it is a good resource for information about Eleanor. It covers her entire life and has some illustrations scattered throughout. This text also contained four short sections on historical information from the time period. The author takes the time to add in sentences for clarification about historical events or language. I think this is what makes this text so accessible for middle elementary readers. There were four secondary sources cited at the end, as well as a timeline of Eleanor’s life and a timeline of the world. I think this text does have a purpose in the classroom despite being a mass-produced series. It makes a great student text in middle to upper elementary grades for research or pleasure.
For more information about the Who Was? series: http://www.whowasbookseries.com/who-was/
Author Gare Thompson’s official website: http://www.garethompson-writer.com/about-gare.html
Story and pictures by Barbara Cooney
Publisher: Penguin Group, 1996
This book is a picture book biography of Eleanor’s early life. It chronicles her early years up until her young adulthood. It does not address her marriage to Franklin or her time as First Lady. I really enjoyed this book for a few reasons. I think that the topic of her early life allows readers to feel a connection to Eleanor. She was a child who suffered suffered loss and struggled with her fears and insecurities. However, when a teacher took her under her wing, Eleanor began to thrive and see the world in a different way. The picture book format is definitely appealing to lower and upper elementary. The length of the book would make this somewhat challenging to use as a mentor text during a lesson. This book would be great for upper elementary students to read on their own. My one major criticism though is that this book lacked sources or an author’s note.
For more information about Barbara Cooney: http://www.penguin.com/author/barbara-cooney/5634
Eleanor, Quiet No More
By Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by Gary Kelley
Publisher: Hyperion Books, 2009
This book was by far my favorite, and this will be a staple in my classroom for a number of reasons. Its construction, research, and illustrations make this piece stand out. For those of you that are not familiar with Doreen Rappaport, she is well-known for her picture book biographies, including Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rappaport has a very unique style that really makes the individuals in her books come to life. Each page of this book features narrative of Eleanor’s life and direct quotes from Eleanor. It follows a chronological format through her entire life. The combination of Eleanor’s words and Kelley’s illustrations capture any audience. It really does justice and honors the character of Eleanor and the intelligent, courageous woman she became. The end of the book features an author’s and illustrator’s note, as well as selected sources and suggestions for further research. It does not, however. contain citations for all of Eleanor’s direct quotes. I would highly recommend this book as a read aloud in elementary classrooms. It is a beautiful picture book about one of the most important women of the twentieth century and inspiring tale about overcoming fears.
Author Doreen Rappaport’s official website: http://doreenrappaport.com/
Illustrator Gary Kelley’s art blog: http://garykelleyart.tumblr.com/
Out of all of these books, my favorite by far was Eleanor Quiet, No More. It is a great book to include when reading non-fiction texts or starting a biography unit. I find that all too often male biographies are read and used as mentor texts to teach history or reading. I think this a gem and showcases a very important woman in American history. It also lends itself well to starting conversations with students about how biographies are written. As you encounter biographies in your own classrooms or out in the world, be sure to look for the author’s note or lists of sources. As previously noted, not all of the books in this round-up cited sources. It is important that we start recognizing the need for sources at a young age. If students learn when they are young that real authors list their sources, they will too. This is a relatively new practice in the field of picture book biographies, but I am hoping to see a positive trend with citing sources in the future. It is never too early or too late to have these conversations about construction of non-fiction texts, and it will certainly help us make children more inquisitive and well-informed readers.
For more activities to teach about Eleanor Roosevelt, check out the Two BookWorms Blog Pinterest board HERE.
Don’t forget to check out our review of another Eleanor inspired title, Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride.