You may have seen (or read some of) the “Who was/is . . .” series of biographies (published by Penguin). As a teacher, I found my students loved to read these books.
I admit that, at first, I was a little dubious of their value. I am always a little hesitant with book series as they can be formulaic and lacking in promoting acquisition of new vocabulary (Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia and other classic series excluded). Also, as a fifth grade teacher, I felt the reading level was a little low for my students. However, as I have read many in the series over the years, I have concluded that they are definitely worth the investment (in terms of both money and time).
The main reason for this is that the books help young readers identify traits, attributes, and other characteristics associated with achieving fulfillment in a chosen field. As a creativity researcher, I am very interested in the traits of creative individuals. Although there is not really a consensus list of traits, those commonly associated with creativity include (but are not limited to):
The architect of this series (the books have different authors) obviously is interested in traits, too. In an unobtrusive but identifiable manner, the series examples that are about creative individuals highlight these traits and detail experiences from the subject’s life that demonstrate them. The books often go beyond illustrating the traits – they discuss the activities (even in childhood) that these individuals engaged in to develop these traits (as well as attributes and skills).
The same is true when reading the series entries about leaders, scientists, entrepreneurs, etc. It is easy to see (from childhood on) the traits and attributes associated with (and that contributed to) each individual’s accomplishments in his or her field.
I have included some items here that might be helpful as you use the books (files at the end of this blog post).
Effectively, the books serve as mini-mentors – showing children a pathway to fulfillment in a chosen career. As a bonus, the biographies tend to lay bare the subjects’ failures, illustrating for the reader the ways in which failures can be learning experiences and how one can move on from them.
As with just about enterprise, the “Who was . . .” series has its own website. The main purpose of the website is to sell books (of course), but they do offer a pop quiz, an app adventure game, lesson plans and worksheets.
If you work with a child who is between grades three through six, dig into some of these books and learn all about the traits that helped these individuals achieve their goals.