Guest post written by Dawn Morris, M.A., C.P.A., blogger and mom of Moms Inspire Learning, Blogging about Children’s Books and Lifelong Learning.
President’s Day Books
As Presidents’ Day approaches, the life and times of Abraham Lincoln will be revisited in many classrooms across the United States. He’s viewed by many as one of the greatest American Presidents, but how did his life as a child set the stage for that role? Inquiring parents, teachers, and students want to know.
You could go through a few of the many web sites which provide biographies, but why not head to the library with your child and seek out some picture books? Not only do many of them have museum-quality illustrations, but there are specific ones which focus on his life as a child. I recently discovered three such children’s books, which complement each other quite nicely. After all, no one resource can tell you all you need to know.
Before I share some quotes taken straight out of each of the children’s books, I’d like to bring you back to the early 1800’s, when young Abe first developed a deep love of learning, which began with the gentle guidance of and encouragement from parents who had no schooling at all.
Life was simple back then. When family members weren’t working on their many chores, they would be talking; Abe’s mom would be singing hymns or sharing Bible stories, or his dad would be telling jokes to make them laugh. That’s probably when Abraham first learned how powerful words could be, and developed not only solid listening skills, but a strong work ethic as well.
Abraham’s mother taught him letters, using the Bible, and he was so anxious to learn that he never forgot them. She encouraged him to attend school, but chores and family responsibilities often got in the way, and he was able to do so for less than one full year in his entire lifetime.
Abe was only 9 years old when his mother, and first reading and learning role model, died. He took it hard, and missed sharing his love of words and reading with her. Chores took over once again; and he and his sister were anxious to head back to school.
Times were tough, but soon Abe’s father decided to go out and find a stepmother for his children. When she walked into their lives, with her came another pleasant and unexpected surprise: books! Even though she couldn’t read them, she encouraged young Abe to read to her. And so, he was lucky to have another wonderful reading role model in his life.
Abraham was eventually able to return to school, and immersed himself in books whenever he could. He preferred to use his mind over his hands, and people thought he was lazy! That perception eventually changed, though, as neighbors came to admire his intellect, as per the following picture book quotes:
“When Abe plowed, a book sat in his back pocket. At each row’s end he’d take it out and read.” ~as per Abe Lincoln: The boy who loved books, by Kay Winters and Nancy Carpenter (most appropriate for ages 3 through 6).
“Abe walked for miles to borrow the few books owned by his frontier neighbors.” ~as per Young Abe Lincoln: The Frontier Days 1809-1837, by Cheryl Harness (most appropriate for ages 5 through 8).
“Most Little Pigeon Creek settlers couldn’t read or write. They began to stop by the Lincoln’s cabin to have Abe read their mail and write their letters.” ~as per Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln, by Judith St. George (author) and Matt Faulkner (illustrator) – a longer picture book, which is divided into chapters (most appropriate for ages 7 through 10).
Abraham Lincoln loved to read, write, and learn, but he also enjoyed sharing his knowledge in order to help people. In my eyes, he changed the world, long before he ever became a politician or President of the United States.
His circle of literacy started in his own home, with parents who had no schooling. He figured out early on that he could teach himself so much through books, and by learning from and with those around him. He eventually trained himself to become a lawyer and a politician.
So, if Lincoln’s early learning experiences did in fact set the stage for his greatness, then didn’t it seem like he was directing his own play? If family members and neighbors were strong supporting actors, then words and books were certainly the props. As for the main character, well, he had a rare combination of passion, determination, and compassion which continues to inspire Americans today.
Wouldn’t you love to see such a production? How fitting it is that there are so many extraordinary children’s books available to bring his story to life. They would have brought a smile to Lincoln’s face.
Perhaps it’s his own words which say the most about him, though:
“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
Those words say it all, don’t they? Lincoln loved asking questions, so I figured I’d leave you with a few:
Do you see that same passion for learning and reading in your own children and/or students? If not, what can you do to ignite it?
How will you inspire the children around you to unlock the unique gifts they hold inside? Is it possible you might find your own key to happiness along the way?
If you had to write your own play, who would be the most important characters, and what props would you include?
“A penny for your thoughts . . .”
Melissa’s Note: Good questions, Dawn. Thank you so much for this inspiring post!
Okay, I’ll go first. With my own kids, I let them choose their own books and at the library, I don’t set any limits. They can fill a bag – in fact, I encourage it because it gets them so excited about reading and learning.
I always let my students choose their own reading material, it gave them the motivation and ownership that they needed. Last week, I met with a now 23-year old former student who caught me up on our 5th grade class. He told me that one girl, R., who refused to read anything but the encyclopedia, ended up becoming a lawyer! It was a thrill to hear about her success.