Native Americans: A Visual Exploration by S.N. Paleja (Brief Thoughts)

I spent a few months reading about the Native Americans last fall, so Native Americans: A Visual Exploration by S.N. Paleja (Annick Press, 2013) caught my eye on Netgalley. As a brief visual overview to the subject, it was a nice book for young readers. In general, however, it provided too little to be an essential or intriguing read.

By using images, charts, and graphics, this book gives young readers a very active and attractive book. If my son were older, I would not have hesitated to hand it to him to get his thoughts. This truly is a visual generation. The book’s layout reminded me of those whiteboard infographic videos on YouTube  where the information is present with a narrator and a hand drawing images on a white board. Each image leads right in to the next, and at the end, the camera zooms out to show the entire whiteboard of images.

In general, however, Native Americans: A Visual Exploration was simply too brief. I believe there is a place for visual learning, but there also is a place for information, and there simply was not much in this book. I say this fully realizing that I have read a lot about the Native Americans, and this is for youth who will not know as much as I do. There were generalities that bothered me, such as the chart which showed that all Native Americans arrived from Beringia (evidence suggests otherwise) and some of the pages had lots of cute illustrations but little information. I really liked some parts of it and I loved the chart of climate and homes since that goes along with my own homeschooling booklet I made.

So, in all, I really did like the visual exploration. It had cute graphics and interesting information. But it would not work as a stand-alone because there simply is not enough. At less than 50 pages, we can’t be too surprised about that.

Note: I received a digital review copy from the publisher via for review consideration.

People Who Said No by Laura Scandiffio

My son’s favorite phrase this month is “That’s not fair!” I’ve made an extra effort to try to help him understand why we have certain rules. And after reading this young adult nonfiction account of some people who said “No! This is not fair!”, I felt like I have some solid examples I can give him of just what truly is “not fair” in the world.

In People Who Said No (Annick Press, 2013), Laura Scandiffio outlines a few of the people in history who made a difference by standing up for what was wrong. Some chapters felt like miniature biographies of people I’d heard of but never before studied in depth. Included were Hans and Sophie, two young adults who took a stand against Hitler’s rise; Helen Suzman, the lone politician in South Africa who spoke out against Apartheid; the people of Egypt who mounted a mostly peaceful protest against their leader; and many more.  Continue Reading

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough (Brief Thoughts)

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) is a volume exploring why certain children succeed, despite the odds. He focuses on the children who are most struggling. Some of them succeed, by going to college and becoming successful, contributing members of society. What in their personality allowed them to overcome their past and succeed?

I really appreciated Tough’s research and the inspiring stories he shared. He argued that while learning letters and numbers and other “kindergarten ready” facts are helpful, what really helps children succeed in their lives is learning to deal with the frustrations of life (which he called developing “grit”), developing determination, and learning to improve and put forth extra effort when you make mistakes. He looked at schools full of well-to-do children from wealthy families, and he found that many did not know how to work. He also looked at students from poor, underprivileged families and found that some of them had developed grit and determination.

Education, he argues, is not just about book learning but about life learning and overcoming. There is a lesson to me in this as I teach my young son at home. I hope that I can exemplify to my kids the grit, determination, and confidence necessary to success in life. Tough’s book was not surprising or groundbreaking to me, but it did inspire me in my home education goals.

Kids Corner: Friday Fun Night Books

Friday nights are “fun night” for our family. Usually, this means we watch a family/kid friendly movie. Recently, now that Raisin is five, we’re branching out to board games. (When the favorite board game was Candy Land, I really did not like that option every week.) Today, Raisin requested that we read books together. 

Yes, my five-year-old son wanted to spend an hour and a half reading with me. This is why I did my 1000 books project with him, and why I’m doing it all over again with my baby. Reading together as a family truly is fun. I’ve grown my son into what I am certain will be a life-long reader.

Here are some of the books we enjoyed.Continue Reading