Well, I never thought I’d review an encyclopedia, but the Heinemann First Encyclopedia is such an excellent resource that I have to spread the word! Each entry gets a full page which contains images, captions and sometimes labels, fact boxes, “Did you know?” boxes, key dates when appropriate, and basic information written in a straight-forward style. Definitely basic information – World War II is one page.
I used the Heinemann First Encyclopedia to teach nonfiction text features a couple months ago and now the kids are creating riddle pages as part of a Big6 unit. I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t have this set!
The majority of my library experience is at the high school level and I would think more than twice before I spent a lot of money on a printed encyclopedia for HS students when online encyclopedias are much more up to date and the students are very tech savvy. However, if a 1st grader is researching penguins, a book is an excellent tool – it’s much more efficient than using an online source, plus I don’t have a class set of computers in my library. This encyclopedia is the perfect book because the kids can quickly extract the information they need. The layout is easy to navigate and interesting. The text is written at a primary level and uses an easy-t0-read font. If a 1st grader can’t read all the text, they can definitely get good information from the fact boxes and/or labeled images. The volumes are only 48 pages, which is a great size for kids. It’s a user-friendly encyclopedia that won’t overwhelm kids.
The only drawback to the set is the limited number of entries. I guess my drawback translates into – I want more of it! I wish there were more entries and more volumes! I wish they would expand the 10 volume set into a 20 volume set! Most of the topics are animals, plants and countries, but they are lacking people. It would be great if they included the most studied people, including world leaders, scientists and pop culture icons. This review is based on the 1999 edition – Gulp! That’s old! Wait! This just in… The Heinemann website says the new edition published in 2006 has 90 new entries including US Presidents, US states and ancient civilizations and it’s 12 volumes instead of 10! They read my mind! Those are great additions. As a librarian in an international school, I wish they had a more multicultural approach in terms of people. Let’s add some world leaders with the next edition!
If someone asked me what were my top resources for an elementary library, the Heinemann First Encyclopedia would be at the top of the list. It’s a must-have for an elementary school library.