Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Compiled by Susan Aldridge, Elizabeth King Humphrey, and Julie Whitaker; published by Reader’s Digest; Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge is exactly what it claims to be. Divided into nine “essential” chapters – Understanding the Universe; The Story of the Earth; The Story of Life; Exploring the World; Invention and Discovery; Conflicts of the Modern Age; The Structure of Society; Religion and Thought; and Artistic Endeavor – this “little” book of a mere 256 pages does, indeed, cover it “all.”
Each chapter contains a wealth of knowledge – most of which we learned “once upon a time” but have forgotten due to lack of use. As single parents, have you ever sat down to help your child study only to think, “we never learned that in school.” Quickly turn to the appropriate section of the “little book of essential knowledge” and you will have the basics at your finger tips and a few “noteworthy” tidbits to add to what your child’s textbook already contains.
Special features that detail and enhance the information in this text include: “In The Know” sidebars that focus on a single related subject to a particular topic; “Key Player” sidebars that focus on the people who made a difference at any particular time; “Conversation Starter” sidebars that arm you with tidbits guaranteed to start a conversation that will not dead end; “In Fact” sidebars that fill you in on little-known facts about a particular subject; and “Test Yourself” sections to test how much you have learned or to quiz those you know who already believe they “know it all.”
How much can one book cover in so few pages? Well, in a sum total of twenty pages, the section on “Conflicts of the Modern Age” covers the American Civil War, World War I, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Arab-Israeli Conflicts, the war in Afghanistan, and the war in the Balkans. How is this possible? In the two pages on the Civil War, not only are the key issues of the war discussed, but a map is provided showing how the states were split, a detail look at Abraham Lincoln’s role is explored, as well as the “first shots” and major turning points in the war. Clear, concise, no-frills information is the key to this text and yet amidst the straight-to-the-point facts are key details that keep the material interesting.
I believe it is important for adults to continue learning for many reasons. First, keeping our minds sound consists mainly of keeping them challenged. What better way to do that than by filling them with useful information. As single parents, our children look to us for answers. Often the subjects they learn in school are many years stagnant for us. Know It All can refresh the information we learned years ago and enhance it with new information. Finally, as single parents and adults, we need to find time for a social life of our own. We have to be “prepared” not to be boring or only be able to discuss the lives of our children when we are with our own peer groups. (Yes, I did use the phrase “peer groups” when talking about adults. We do have peers, too, you know.)
Finally, for all of you who are in to trivia – this little book is full of knowledge that can help you win the greatest trivia challenges. I highly recommend this book for parents to catch up on what they have missed or refresh on what they already know, as a reference book for your children, and a tool for social contact among adults. I cannot think of anyone of reading age who cannot find a use for the information included in Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge.