Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Small Readers: Rosa Parks by Kitson Jazynka

My feelings about easy reader biographies are pretty much the same as picture book biographies - I don't see the point. But I have a habit of buying every National Geographic easy reader that comes out because they're so popular so I purchased most of the biographies they put out, without even looking at them.

Then Rosa Parks was nominated for Cybils and I took it home to read. It completely blew me away and is everything I always vaguely imagined an easy biography should be.

The book starts with a simple explanation of segregation and how it affected every day life. Then it talks in simple terms about Rosa Parks' life as a child and the people who influenced her. There is a section that sets the scene for the pivotal events by relating things in the 1920s to today, from how much a bar of chocolate cost to games children played. The explanation of what could have happened to Parks is honest but not graphic. There are inset "Words to know" sections that explain difficult terms as they are introduced, like "boycott" and "protest." Additional facts about Rosa Parks' life are included as well as what happened after the bus boycott. There is a quiz and a pictorial glossary at the back of the book.

One of the things I really liked about this book was that it simplified and made relatable historical events and people without glossing over facts or leaving things out. The book mentions at one point that Rosa Parks was not the first or only person to refuse to give up their seat, but that she was important in sparking the boycott. The book explains segregation and the time period in a way that kids will be able to relate to. It also talks about how Rosa Parks continued to fight against inequality and racism, helping kids understand that these are current issues, not things that only happened a long time ago.

This is a level 2 reader and the main text is bold and simple. There are additional text boxes with smaller, more complex text, as well as captions, timelines, etc. A beginning reader could easily handle the central text with some help on the additions.

Verdict: My perennial gripe about biographies for young children is that they don't give them any context or any way to link to the people they are presenting. This book does an amazing job of not only explaining the context of Rosa Parks' life, but why she is important and matters today. It explained confusing terms, included lots of interesting photographs, and was well-written and interesting as well as conveying important information. I can't wait to use this in a book club and I'm really glad I bought the National Geographic easy reader biographies, if they all turn out to be like this one!

ISBN: 9781426321429; Published 2015 by National Geographic; Purchased for the library

1 comment:

Annette said...

It's going on my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation!