In November 2013 Janet Hovorka and her sister Amy Slade wrote 4 companion workbooks to the “Zap the Grandma Gap” book series published in 2012. It was my pleasure to review these child friendly workbooks and put them to the test with my own kids. Boy did they devour the books!
There are four activity books currently available to help educate children on their ancestors who were British, German, Swedish, or who fought in the American Civil War. As of today, I don’t have Swedish Ancestors, so my kids looked at me cross eyed when I showed them that one. However, they were more than happy to read, color, and sing along with the activities in the other books.
Each workbook is set up to trace one ancestor through its pages. There was a family tree your child can use to trace back to their ancestor of interest. After that they were lead through a series of pages explaining how to research the ancestor, websites they may want to visit, and worksheets to fill out about that ancestor. The rest of the book was filled with pages and pages of history and all sorts of information about the place your child was now researching.
I particularly liked the variety of things to do inside the books. My kids have a wide age gap but they each were able to find parts that interested them. For instance the books include activities such as mazes, word searches, paper dolls, coloring pages, music, recipes, and stories. While I even enjoyed the books, I think these are geared more to the elementary school (6th grade and below) level. However, you will have to judge your child’s interest and skill level.
It would have been nice if the sheets in the book were tear away making them easier to use. After complaining kids (who knew they both would want to use the same book at the same time) I ended up copying the pages they wanted to do. My youngest said he preferred this so that he didn’t have to work around the “hump” of the book (otherwise known as the binding). Plus, they can now hang their artwork up on the bulletin boards in their rooms.
Each of the books also have paper dolls in the back. The set comes with appropriate clothes to the time/place your ancestors came from. There is an entire family to color and decorate as well. While my boys were not interested in those, at all, a friend’s girl asked if she could glue the people to cardboard. Which made perfect sense to me too. That way they would hold up better under play. I even constructed a half circle stand so they would stand up by themselves on the table for her.
These books are a great way to engage and educate children about their ancestors. Making history fun is always important to grab a child’s imagination and attention. This series certainly does that. More importantly it gives them a good grasp at basic research skills, historical context, social history, and genealogy. Hopefully we will see more of these workbooks in the future!