For our most recent Mother-Daughter book club, our eldest member on the daughter side -a bona fide third-grader – chose nonfiction. Thankfully, rather than Who is Taylor Swift? or Who Was Elvis Presley? (though this one may have been interesting)…she chose Who Was Queen Elizabeth? At our house, I ended up doing a lot of the reading aloud to my second-grader. This is not light material. Aside from being shunned by her own father and imprisoned by her sister, her cousin plotted to have her killed. So, it felt somewhat comforting to be together while I relayed these very gruesome, though very real facts. I think a lot of it went over her head, of course, but the basic idea that Queen Elizabeth I overcame many obstacles to become a strong and prosperous ruler came across. And, I loved reading lines like these aloud:
“The young girl who had been shunned by her father had grown to become one of England’s greatest rulers. She had lived in a world where men were thought to be smarter, wiser, and better in all ways than women.”
For this book, I’d say the girls seemed to glean the most from the discussion. Kind of like when you a read a book that you sort of get, but have a lot of questions about, when you get together and talk it out in a class or with other readers, you walk away understanding it on a deeper level. There seems to be a lot of talk in elementary school ages about fiction versus nonfiction, so it was nice to hear the girls considering a protagonist who was real, whose actions had profound effects on history.
For this book, our third-grade leader posed many thoughtful questions:
- Do you think it was hard to be in charge of so many people?
- What do you think of the clothes they wore back then? (we actually go into sumptuary laws a bit)
- Do you think Elizabeth was scared when she was locked in the tower?
- Why did she survive smallpox when it was a death-sentence for so many people? (was she magical? blessed?)
- Was she upset when her close advisor betrayed her?
- And the final question: Did you like reading nonfiction or do you prefer fiction?
This was interesting – though the girls have been taught the difference, and have been exposed to both at school, this seemed to be one of the first times they’d been asked to consider their individual tastes. It seems their preferences are still unfolding, still developing, and since I love to foster critical thinking, I loved to watch their faces as they each considered how to answer that question.