As the kids were getting ready for bed last night, my husband pulled out Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun and flipped through it.
Unbored is a pretty great book - it has about a million unexpected and funky things for a kid to do: DIY Fiction! Farting Games! Make a Cigar Box Guitar! and it sits on our shelf until somebody pulls it out and has a little fun with it and then puts it back where it'll sit for another 6 months. That book makes a great gift (although if there's a second edition, I'd recommend the illustrations to be a little less hipster/retro. If it were me, I'd get Stephen Gilpin to do 'em. And I might spring for color.).
Anyway, tonight Bob found this page of questions from the 1922 Stanford Achievement Test, and just for fun started reading them out loud. I am always pretty amazed at the random stuff my kids know, and tonight I just had to ask - how do you know that?
So here's a sample of the questions from page 202 of Unbored, and how my kids knew the answers. VERRRY interesting, and a huge validation of leisure reading.
An elf is a kind of a) animal b) brownie c) dragon. Although they absolutely quibbled with the 'brownie' designation, they knew what a brownie was because they'd read Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.
Apollo was the god of a) rivers b) the sun c) wind. Any kid who's read Percy Jackson and the Olympians will get this without thinking. Ezra's book club in his fourth grade class has been re-reading all five books.
Kings are supposed to rule for a) 4 years b) 8 years c) life. Heavy sighs at this one, with everyone recalling the gradual weight of responsibility that falls on the Wart as he is tutored by Merlin in The Sword in the Stone. How have my kids read this book, you ask - the language is so ornate! AUDIO. LISTEN TO BOOKS, you will love it.
A battle of the Revolution was a) Bull Run b) Bunker Hill c) Tippecanoe. Bunker Hill! "Although the American troops were on Breed's Hill," clarified Milo, and I knew right away he knew that from reading Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy.
Circe changed the men of Odysseus into a) horses b) stones c) swine. The Ulysses app on our iPad was probably the source of this knowledge. That is one beautiful app.
Marco Polo was a famous a) philosopher b) traveler c) warrior. They both got this one immediately, and I'm pretty sure it was because of Russell Freedman's excellent Adventures of Marco Polo, which is out of print but we've borrowed from the library.
In 1917 there was a great Revolution in a) Germany b) Russia c) Turkey. Ha ha - no, my kids have not read Doctor Zhivago! Nobody got this, and Milo says it's because "we haven't gotten to the twentieth century yet in social studies," making me wonder if there isn't a good piece of kids' fiction on the Bolshevik Revolution that isn't about Anastasia.
The country which helped America in the Revolution was a) England b) France c) Germany. France! That's what the Statue of Liberty is about! There were a few years there when Ezra lived and died for those Dover coloring books. He'll still come out with a weird nugget about the surrender at Yorktown or the difference between a privateer and a buccaneer, and those are facts that he learned from coloring books.
A man known for his strength was a) Abel b) David c) Samson. Now, I had reservations about bringing The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament home to my kids, but I tell you what, they know more Old Testament stories than I do because they loved that book so much.
It makes me sigh to see so many questions based on literature on this test - Bob didn't ask them the Coleridge question, or the Ivanhoe one, or who wrote Innocents Abroad - you'd never find a question about "The Song of Hiawatha" on a standardized test nowadays, and that's probably an ok thing. But I was really gratified to find my kids so culturally literate, and unbelievably pleased that we could trace so much knowledge directly to fiction and entertaining nonfiction, including graphic novels and audio books.