A lot of education is filling in gaps. Even more is simple fact-memorization, the primary building block leading to the ability to regurgitate ideas, analyze them, and form original ones. Either way, there often isn't a better solution than stuffing names, dates, and figures in kids' heads until they can recall them at will. They hate this, generally, but it's a necessary evil.
In no way as unpleasant, but just as educational, is something most kids love to do: getting comfy with a big compendium of knowledge and turning each page, learning little tidbits about history, the world around them, how their body works, or who's been in outer space until they've had enough and go outside to hunt trolls or dig up buried treasure.
The best word to describe such books is one that every college student learns to dread: reference. If you don't get an F on your paper because you wrote it two hours before class, you definitely will because you forgot to cite your references. It's important to remember, however, that the enemy isn't reference; the enemy (for lack of a better term) is a system that places more value on following arbitrary guidelines than presenting and commenting on thoughts and information.
We're here to put the RAD back in reference. And memorization—there's nothing that says learning the times tables has to be boring. It often is, but usually only because we look at it as a chore, and not a privilege or exciting activity. This attitude often starts with parents: we didn't like math in school, so we kind of groan along with our kids whenever the ol' numbers chart comes out. If we get excited instead, our children are likely to do the same.
Below you'll find a long list of books crammed with facts. Some of them aren't important facts (usually the most fun), some of them are essential; we're not sure where the distinction should or does lie all the time, so we'll leave you to sort that out for yourselves. We would simply encourage, whether you're teaching the tens chart in math, or adding nuance to a study of the Old West by reading a short bio of female outlaw Belle Prater, that you approach "just the facts" with as much joy and anticipation as you'd like to see your children exhibit.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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