How Kids Can Learn to Write a Biography

Young girl writing a biography

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Many gifted kids love reading biographies, but there's no reason they can't write one of their own! If your child is one of those who loves biographies and also loves writing, then encourage them to write their own biography. Sometimes a child has a good idea of who they'd like to write about and sometimes they don't. Getting ideas on who to write about and gathering information on that person and the time in which they lived would be the first steps to writing a biography.

Writing the Biography

Once your child has gathered all the information they need, they need to come up with an "angle." This is what makes one biography substantially different from other biographies. Coming up with an angle just means figuring out the main idea of the biography or the point the biography will make about the person.

A good way to think about the angle or main idea is that it is one sentence that expresses the writer's opinion of the person. It is what the writer wants everyone to know or think about that person.

It is really like a thesis statement. For example, a child might want everyone to know that his grandfather was an honest, hard-working person who, in spite of many hardships made a good life for himself and his family.

That main idea can help your child stay focused on the details to include in the biography. After all, a lifetime is full of many, many events; they can't all be included. Which ones should be included? The ones that help illustrate the main idea! If the main idea is to show a person was hard-working, readers don't need to know all the details about the person's various pets — unless that person worked hard to take care of those pets!

Once your child knows the message they'd like to convey with their biography, they can write a short and simple outline that lists the events and details they want to write about. It doesn't have to be long or complicated or very formal. Even a list of events they'd like to write about will work quite nicely.

Making the Biography Interesting

What makes a biography interesting? We'd like to think that the story itself is enough to make the biography interesting, and that's sometimes true when we're writing a biography about a family member to be read by other family members. But how can your child make his biography interesting to others?

One way is to use specific words when possible rather than general words. For example, "car" is a general word, but "Mercedes" is specific. "Walk" is also a rather general word, but "shuffle" is more specific.

Encouraging your child to use more specific words will not only make the biography more interesting to read, but it will also help them expand their vocabulary.

Of course, it's not always necessary to use specific terms. Sometimes adjectives and adverbs can use used. For example, your child might write, "the old and rusted cars" or "walked slowly." The idea behind all this detail is to help a reader see and feel what the writer sees and feels.

The Read, Write, Think Web site has a great exercise sheet to help kids be more descriptive in their writing. But be sure to let them know that less can sometimes be more! In other words, tell them not to overdo it!

Adding Final Touches

Once your child is done with his biography, there are some final touches they can add. Pictures are great additions to a biography. Family pictures can be collected from other people in the family, but how do you get pictures of famous people? The best way is to look for photos that are in the public domain. That just means that no one owns the copyright to the photos anymore, so anyone can use them.

Another final touch is to find a great quotation to start with, one that will get a reader "hooked." This can be something the subject of the biography (i.e. a grandparent) frequently said, or it could be a quotation from a famous author that reflects what your child wants to say about his subject.

Publishing the Biography

Publishing can mean something as simple as printing out copies of the biography on a printer or getting it published as a book. It's actually easier to get it published than you might think.​ is a wonderful place to go to get a book published. There are lots of "templates" to pick from and lots of biographies that you can take a look at. Books created there can be shared with everyone and anyone!

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.