November 22 is a sad anniversary in our country's history, but it presents a great starting point for intergenerational conversations. For starters, ask family members who were alive in 1963 what they remember about that day. Your child may be surprised to learn that Walter Cronkite announced the news on black-and-white television, long before news was spread via the internet.
Today we can find all sorts of information in the internet, including a copy of John. F. Kennedy's 8th grade report card. His teacher commented that his "poor effort" in Latin resulted in a grade of 55. Your child may remind you for years that even presidents get bad grades, so think carefully before you go to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum website to find the report card, recordings of JFK's well-known speeches and a wealth of fascinating information.
The Des Plaines Public Library also has lots of interesting information about our 35th president. These are some books that I recommend.
The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward by Kathleen Krull is approachable for young children. Krull is an award-winning biographer. Amy Bates illustrated the book with watercolor, gouache and pencil.
Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation by Bill O'Reilly was adapted for children from the author's book for adults. The chapters are short, and there are photographs on nearly every page.
"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson is on my to-read list. Publishers Weekly named it to their list of Best Children's Books for 2013.
Countdown by Deborah Wiles is a documentary novel that your family could read aloud together. The story is about a girl growing up in 1962, but it also includes clippings, photos and speeches from the time of the Cuban missile crisis.
Poems to Learn by Heart is a wonderful collection of poems selected by Caroline Kennedy, JFK's only daughter (and our new ambassador to Japan). There are great poems that can be memorized, but are also great to read aloud. The Cremation of Sam McGee is my favorite, because I actually did memorize it when I was in eighth grade.
I hope these books help your family enjoy some interesting conversations. If you memorize one of the poems, please come the library to recite it for me.