Reading, Writing and Research Made Fun with Kids' Almanacs

Article excerpt

School has started, and the family calendar is filled with scribbles: cupcakes for class party, football practice, math test. If some of the dates have notations that read "report due," today's selections will help.

Whether it's for social studies, English or health class, flipping through these books is like having a brainstorming session about topics.

-- Title: Kids Almanac for the 21st Century

-- Authors and illustrators: Elaine Pascoe and Deborah Kops/ Bob Italian and David C. Bell

-- Publisher: Scholastic

-- Price: $18.95

-- Ages: 8 and older

This almanac covers about 40 topics children will encounter while doing homework or might want to know about just for fun. Each subject has an introduction, a chronology of important dates, notable figures, key terms, charts, graphs and tables.

Some topics include: animals, arts and music, business and money, earth science, geography, health, history, United Nations, weather and zodiac.

Let's examine a portion of the "Animals" entry.

The five-paragraph introduction is in traditional text form, which is ideal for children who like to read. Reluctant readers can flip to subsequent pages and see a time line reflecting dinosaur life during the Mesozoic era, a bar chart listing the 10 longest-lived animals and a map indicating where endangered species live. The key ideas list has definitions of "extinct" "natural selection," "naturalist." The notables list includes Jane Goodall, Theodore Roosevelt and John James Audubon. The yearbook list has entries such as "July 1, 1874: America's first zoo opens in Philadelphia" and "1966: The first U.S. Endangered Species Act is passed."

Now, here's a list of five ideas you could generate from these entries:

-- The First Zoo in America. Research whether it's still open, what kind of animals it had when it opened and what kind it has now.

-- Jane Goodall. …