Selecting a text

Happy New Year!

You may recall that many of the biographies of Frederick Douglass I had been examining were too involved for 3rd graders to use as a text, especially since we had further plans to challenge them as readers with the article from the New York Times. I have gotten our choices down to two: Frederick Douglass: a photo-illustrated biography, by Margo McLoone (Capstone Press); and A picture book of Frederick Douglass, by David A. Adler (Holiday House).

The McLoone text is readable at a 2nd grade level and is illustrated on every lefthand page with a primary source photo or engraving. The righthand page is text.

The Adler text is illustrated on every page with color paintings that are not actually first-rate. The text is superimposed on the illustration, but is legible. Readability is probably at the upper end of 3rd grade.

I think I prefer the Adler text for a couple of reasons. First, the McLoone is very clunky, simply one declarative statement after another. Secondly, the Adler gives a much more comprehensive look at the society in which Douglass lived and the obstacles he overcame, which is of course our main point. Finally, the Adler uses quotes from Douglass himself, which would be easy to expand into a reading of the pertinent sections of Douglass’s autobiography.

The McLoone text might be useful as a remedial text for students whose reading skills are just not up to par.

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