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Read-Aloud Ideas: Biography
Lower Elementary

Before reading
Read Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book to set some context. Explain that for the next few sessions you’ll be reading true stories of some important people.  Introduce the term biography.  Brainstorm reasons why a person might be considered important. Share some of the books listed below.

After reading
Discuss in general terms the different reasons why people may have become famous—they were a leader, had a passion/talent for something, overcame difficulties, etc.  Have students contribute to a class book about important people.  As you read through a number of biographies, have just a few children at a time (at a center or in a small guided writing group) illustrate and reflect on one person’s contribution.  (Tip: PowerPoint slides are an easy way to create a “big book” that can be printed or shared electronically.)

Students can fill in the sentence frame:  The important thing about __________ is ____________.  The class book may show different perspectives on the same person, and will serve as a collective biography about more than one person from history.

Adler, David.  A Picture Book of George Washington.  ISBN:    1-4048-0184-7 Lexile: 750 
Pair with Nettleton’s book below for an introduction to our first president.

Anholt, Laurence. Stone Girl, Bone Girl.  ISBN:  0-531-30148-6  Lexile: 520
Twelve year old Mary Anning of Dorset, England makes scientific history with her discovery of ichthyosaur. 

Roop, Peter.  Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie. ISBN: 0-87614-275-7  Lexile: 260 
Young Abbie Burgess kept the lamp in her father’s lighthouse burning when he left for the mainland in a crisis and couldn’t return for several weeks.  Undoubtedly she saved many lives during a month long storm in 1856.          

McCarthy, Meghan.  The story of Charles Atlas, Strong Man.  ISBN:   978-0-375-92940-3  Reading level:  3.8
Colorful, cartoon-like illustrations and spare text that reads like a story will appeal to young students.  Many will relate to Angelo’s (Charlie was his nickname) predicament as a scrawny kid.  Positive messages about eating right, exercise, and self-discipline fit with today’s emphasis on wellness.  A fine choice about a personality unknown to most children today.

Nettleton, Pamela.  George Washington: Farmer, Soldier, President.  ISBN:  1-4048-0184-7   Lexile: 590

Winter, Jeannette.  The Watcher:  Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps.  ISBN: 978-0-375-86774-3  Reading level:  3.2
An excellent account of Goodall’s passions as a young girl and how they served her well in her work as an adult researcher.  Winter has a talent for making the subjects of her books accessible to young learners.

More on Lexiles


Introduction • Lower Elementary • Middle ElementaryUpper Elementary