How stories from the presidents’ childhoods inspired me to share family history in a way that kids can laugh at and connect with.
Kid Presidents is actually meant for grades 4-6, but my 1st grader listened attentively as we read together about George Washington’s boyhood on the Virginia frontier and Barrack Obama’s pet monitor lizard. We laughed out loud imagining a Komodo dragon living in a small concrete tub in Barry Soetoro’s backyard (his step-father traveled a lot and brought home rare pets). My son likes this species of monitor lizard so much that he named our soccer team after them! (It’s pretty tricky to get 3-6 year olds to say “1-2-3 Go Komodo Dragons,” but we love the name anyway.)
Kid Presidents is a mix of amusing anecdotes and intriguing stories about how the presidents were just ordinary kids. The message to children is that the presidents had to overcome bullying, bad eyesight, embarrassment, and sibling rivalry – and so can you.
If only Kid Presidents were written after this election. Stories about Trump’s childhood would be sure to add interest to the volume! The Washington Post reported about Donny’s childhood in this article: Confident. Incorrigible. Bully: Little Donny was a lot like candidate Donald Trump, by Paul Schwartzman and Michael E. Miller. The pictures alone are fun to see.
What stories do you tell about your childhood? What is the message that accompanies those stories? Children naturally relate to stories about the childhood days of their parents. When parents share that they know how it feels to fall off their bikes, kids make a wonderful connection: mom and dad were once like me!
Educators recognize that connecting learning to what students already know is a sure-fire method for arousing curiosity. Teachers sometimes struggle to relate their subject to kids’ background knowledge and personal interests. But for parents, this isn’t too hard! We moms, dads, and grandparents are intimately acquainted with our kids’ likes and dislikes, what makes them laugh, and what questions they have about the world. So when it’s time to teach our children history, whether it be political history, social history, or family history, we can tailor it to their natural curiosity and interests.
Here are a few ideas for telling stories about your childhood (or your ancestors’ childhoods if you’re lucky enough to know about them) that I gathered from reading Kid Presidents:
– Tell your embarrassing moments. Kids will laugh (even though you might still be cringing inside) and then you can tell about how you moved on and made it through those awkward pre-teen years.
– Tell about your struggles in school. We all have them! Kids lives pretty much revolve around school, so they can really relate. Not all the presidents were good students. One chapter in Kid Presidents includes quotes from the presidents’ teachers! Theodore Roosevelt’s teacher predicted he would “surely one day be a great professor, or, who knows, he may become even the President of the United States.” JFK’s teacher thought he was very disorganized, saying, “Jack studies at the last minute…and can seldom locate his possessions.”
– Tell about those times you didn’t get along with your parents. FDR’s story beats all though – talk about a helicopter parent! No privacy, no choices…no wonder he wanted to have a day of freedom. If only we knew what he did! All the book says is that he came home hungry, tired, and covered with dirt.
– Weave your childhood stories into part of a larger narrative that teaches a lesson. (i.e. I had an ordinary childhood with ups and downs but I am now a successful person despite it all).
Buy: Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents – Amazon has a great preview of this book which lets you see most of the book including the hilarious illustrations. Check it out!
David Stabler, the author, and Doogie Horner, the illustrator, have also paired up for two other “Kid Legends” books – Kid Artists and Kid Athletes. These are affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission but it doesn’t change the price of the item. Thank you!