Fourth Grader Aces History Report, With a Little Help from Google Books and Abigail Adams

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 10:13 AM

As autumn begins to draw near, the leaves are changing color and school is in the air, much to the chagrin of students everywhere. Fret not! Google Books' ever-growing digital archive of books can make acing those looming reports and exams easier -- and even fun. Just ask Lydia, an elementary school student whose research for a history report led her to find the first published book pertaining to a US First Lady ever, using Google Books.

Lydia's mom recounts her daughter's tale:

Last year, when Lydia was in fourth grade, her teacher assigned the students to write a short biography about an historical figure. In addition to writing a short report, the children were also assigned to orally present it to the class, in costume, along with four or five "relics" related to the person.

Lydia chose to focus on First Lady Abigail Adams, wife to John Adams, the second president of the US. In the course of her research, Lydia learned that John and Abigail corresponded extensively with each other, since they were frequently separated. They often discussed government and politics. Of key importance was the letter Abigail wrote to John while the Declaration of Independence was being crafted. In the letter, Abigail told John to "remember the ladies". Lydia learned that this letter was among the earliest known pieces of writings advocating for women's equality.

Abigail Adams posing for a portrait (Life Magazine)

Lydia thought it would be fun to have one of these letters as one of her relics. She found one easily on the Web.

But as Lydia continued her research, she learned that long after Abigail died, her grandson collected her letters and published them in 1840. This is the first book pertaining to a US First Lady ever published.

I thought it would be great fun if one of Lydia's relics for her presentation was this book. But where to get it? At once, I thought of Google Books. Lydia and I went online and found the cover page and selected a few more pages in a matter of moments. She printed the cover page and showed that as one of her relics.

The end result? Lydia got an "A" on her report!


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