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A recent report from Common Core (opens in a new window) indicates a significant percentage of the 17-year-olds surveyed did not have a grasp of even the basics about history and literature.

What our 17-year-olds don’t know can hurt not only them, but the world we live in. And eventually, it seems likely that it will have an impact their children.

When does the spark of curiosity begin? What ignites it? Are we spending so much time on the basics — reading and math — that there’s no time left for anything else? What do we lose when we lose a sense of the past?

I don’t have answers and my guess is that no one has them all. But one thing seems clear to me: that an interest and commitment to learning begins early on.

It also seems clear to me that books can introduce ideas, places, and people in language that we don’t normally use in everyday conversation that can expand a child’s world.

Biography and picture book biographies have proliferated in recent years. They can each bring history to life through the story of an individual, in a literary way. March is Women’s History Month (opens in a new window) and so it seems that it’s an ideal time to bring some of these stories for younger children to light.

Eleanor and Amelia Go for a Ride (opens in a new window) (Scholastic) is a fictionalized story of two real women, as is Nobody Owns the Sky (opens in a new window) (Candlewick) — but both can lead to more factual presentations about early women aviators. And that’s just the start.

The sky’s the limit, but the spark has to start young and interests encouraged along the way — to age 17 and beyond. There is no shortage of books to grow with young people’s interests.

About the Author

Reading Rockets’ children’s literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids’ books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Publication Date
March 6, 2008