June 25, 2019

Review: “Who Was or Is …?” Book Series – The Inspirational Superpower of Real People

One challenge in a virtual school or home school scenario is having enough fun books that are truly a pleasure for a child to read while also being educational.

Our family filled this need with the Who Is or Was …? Series. It’s a fantastic biography series that has got us totally hooked. We are all reading them! Most of the books have a different author but each is well-edited to ensure a smooth read for 3rd-5th Grade reading level.

This series is real people telling their real and interesting stories. It doesn’t get better than that.

who was series


Our adventure started when we purchased Who Was Steve Jobs? at a local bookstore. I opened the book with the intention of reading just the first few pages–you know, just to get a feel for the author and story. Honesty, I was a bit curious about his life, but I didn’t want to spend hours studying an “adult” book on top of the ten I already had.

I couldn’t put it down! I read it cover to cover in one sitting. The entire reading time for an adult is about one hour, for a 4th Grader about three hours.


I checked out ten books from the series at the local library, and my nine-year-old son has been devouring them.

As his homeschool teacher, I add a few enrichment activities such as Google Imaging (a verb in our family, like “Why don’t you just Google Image that person?”) of people and places mentioned in the book.

While reading the book Who Was Queen Elizabeth? I had him YouTubeing (another new verb in our flattening 21st Century,  internet-driven world) the instrument Queen Elizabeth played, called the virginal. He loved the sound of the instrument so much, we downloaded an album and had it playing the background during school for the next two days. In my son’s words, “It’s relaxing.”

He chose to read Who Was Dr. Seuss?, and then Who Was Walt Disney? To enhance the experience, we added reading a few of their books and watched some media productions of works by Dr. Seuss and Disney.

Now he is reading Who Was Neil Armstrong?  Once he completes the book, we will fieldtriping (another family created verb) the Evergreen Aviation Space Museum.

neil armstrong

These Who Is or Was …? Series books are his pleasure readers outside of assigned school academics. I keep a stack of them next to the schoolwork table in our dining room. We keep it light and fun.

Like all good parents and teachers ask before we start any new subject, I asked my son “Why would you want to (fill in any subject here) read biographies?”

His reply blew my mind:

“I want to know what they did right, so I can do that, and what they did wrong, so I don’t do that.”

Our children are far wiser than we give them credit for. There is hope for this next generation!



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