Written By: Barbara Cooney

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations and Text:

Take a moment to look over the cover and illustrations throughout the book before beginning your read-through. Ask these questions to encourage imaginative thinking:

What do you notice on the front cover?

Who do you think Eleanor is? If your child guesses correctly, then try activating his/her prior knowledge about Eleanor Roosevelt or her husband.

What do you predict this story will be about?

{Flip to a picture} What do you think is happening in this picture?


Tell your child that the story you are about to read is a biography and ask if s/he knows what that means.  A biography is a story written about a real person and what happened in that person’s life. This story is about former First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, and how her childhood in the late 1800s to early 1900s shaped the influential woman that she ultimately became. You can help to create some context for your child by saying that the First Lady is married to the President but also does important things herself like being independently involved in politics and working for human rights. Ask, “Do you know who the First Lady is now? Who is the President?” Discuss what it is your child already knows about the role of the First Lady.

As You Read

Vocabulary Building:

Encourage your child to pause when s/he comes across a new word. Allow him/her to discover the meaning of the word using the words and illustrations surrounding it. Examples of new words in Eleanor include:




Making Connections:

Make this story more relate-able for your child by asking if a particular part of the story reminds him/her about a certain personal life experience. For example, when Eleanor and her father went to the lodging house on Thanksgiving to serve dinner to the newsboys, ask “Can you think of a time when you helped someone who needed help or was less fortunate than you? What did you do? How did it make you feel? Why did you feel that way?” While the story itself is set in a time that might seem unfamiliar to your child, many of the scenes that play out are quite relate-able from an emotional or relationship point of view.

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

To gauge your child’s understanding of the story you have just read, ask questions like:

What did Eleanor like to do with her father? Why did she enjoy spending time with him?

Why did Eleanor have to move to Grandma Hall’s house?

Why did Grandma Hall send Eleanor to boarding school when she was fifteen.

How did Eleanor know how to speak French so well? How did this help her when she went away to boarding school?

Eleanor had a sad and relatively lonely childhood, but she blossomed when she went to boarding school and became the confident and intelligent woman that the world would later know her to be. Bring this to your child’s attention by asking “How did Eleanor feel about herself before she went to boarding school? What about when she went to boarding school? What caused that change?”  To supplement what your child has learned about Eleanor Roosevelt in this story, you can do some more research on her and her adult life through resources like this.  

Activity: Writing a Letter

Supplies: Paper, pencils and coloring supplies (crayons, markers, etc)

The letters that Eleanor’s father wrote to her as a child were her most treasured possessions, and she kept them all throughout her life. You and your child can write letters like these to each other to show your appreciation and love for one another. Data shows that we are happier when we show gratitude to the people that we love, so take advantage of this opportunity to show that gratitude to your little one and have him/her show it in return. Once your letters are done, you can both draw a picture of you and your child doing your favorite activity together. If needed, here is a letter starter:

Dear __________,

Thank you for…

You mean a lot to me because…

I hope that we...


Your Name