Before attending Mount Vernon's Teacher Institute Summer Residency in August, I read some 15 books about George Washington and his contemporaries. I felt at the time that I wanted to be more prepared for my experience in Virginia.
Since returning, I have read eight more books. George Washington: First in War is a short read that was included in the bag given to teachers at the institute. I actually read this entire book during my extended stays (read: missed flights) at the airports in Virginia and Dallas. George Washington's Mount Vernon: Official Guidebook was a book I purchased to learn more about the things I had seen at the estate. George Washington's Rules to Live By has caricature illustrations and quick explanations of the 110 Rules of Civility that George copied down when he was a child.
George Washington Leads the Way is a comic-book-style publication that introduces kids to some of the important moments in Washington's life. In a junior novelization, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, retells the Washington Irving tale of a headless horseman (supposed to be the ghost of a Revolutionary soldier) who terrorizes a schoolmaster in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Finally, in Siege, the account of George Washington's leadership at the beginning of the Revolution is presented in poetry form.
Two other books have been enlightening. One, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, tells the fascinating account of the beginning stages of the United States Navy, beginning with the first president, but focusing more on the third. Interestingly, While Washington was the warrior and Jefferson more of a pacifist, it is Jefferson who boldly developed a naval presence and won the "forgotten" war.
Finally, my favorite of the collection: I picked up Young Washington from the Joplin Public Library when I saw it. This is the newest publication, but it tells of the earliest part of Washington's life - the years preceding the Revolution. Young Washington is a page-turning masterpiece, telling of Washington's lineage, his teen years, and his foray into military life. Here is a book that is not afraid to criticize the future father of a nation for his ignorance, his vanity, and his impatience. Here, too, is a book that demonstrates Washington's growth and learning process. His is a story of learning from mistakes and his growth into a maturity that fell into place at just the right time for the birth of a new, free nation.
I remember reading many biographies when I was in elementary school, but I don't remember them being as compelling as some of these. This time around, I feel more invested in my reading. I find myself searching for new information and trying to incorporate my new knowledge into the classroom.