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Few people ever knew so many things as Benjamin Franklin. Men said, "How did he ever learn so many things?" For he had been a poor boy who had to work for a living. He could not go to school at all after he was ten years old.

His father made soap and candles. Little Ben Franklin had to cut wicks for the candles. He also filled the candle molds. And he sold soap and candles, and ran on errands. But when he was not at work he spent his time in reading good books. What little money he got he used to buy books with.

He read the old story of "Pilgrim's Progress," and liked it so well that he bought all the other stories by the same man. But as he wanted more books, and had not money to buy them, he sold all of these books. The next he bought were some little history books. These were made to sell very cheap, and they were sold by peddlers. He managed to buy forty or fifty of these little books of history.

Another way that he had of learning was by seeing things with his own eyes. His father took him to see carpenters at work with their saws and planes. He also saw masons laying bricks. And he went to see men making brass and copper kettles. And he saw a man with a turning lathe making the round legs of chairs. Other men were at work making knives. Some things people learn out of books, and some things they have to see for themselves.

As he was fond of books, Ben's father thought that it would be a good plan to send him to learn to print them. So the boy went to work in his brother's printing office. Here he passed his spare time in reading. He borrowed some books out of the stores where books were sold. He would sit up a great part of the night sometimes to read one of these books. He wished to return it when the bookstore opened in the morning. One man who had many books lent to Ben such of his books as he wanted.

It was part of the bargain that Ben's brother should pay his board. The boy offered to board himself if his brother would give him half what it cost to pay for his board.

His brother was glad to do this, and Ben saved part of the money and bought books with it. He was a healthy boy, and it did not hurt him to live mostly on bread and butter. Sometimes he bought a little pie or a handful of raisins.

Long before he was a man, people said, "How much the boy knows!" This was because–

He did not waste his time.

He read good books.

He saw things for himself.


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the story multiple times.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


Benjamin Franklin was a poor boy. He had to work selling soap and candles and could not go to school after he was ten years old. He taught himself by reading many books and observing people around him. He also learned to print books. He read so many books, he knew many things.


Candle: A block of wax with a central wick that is lit on fire to produce light.
Wick: A strip of material up which liquid fuel is drawn to the flame in a candle, lamp, or lighter.
Mold: A hollow container used to shape hot liquid material when it cools and hardens.
Carpenter: A person who makes and repairs wooden objects and structures.
Mason: A builder and worker in stone.


Benjamin Franklin sold candles as a boy. Candles have been made for thousands of years all around the world. People used candles to make light during the night.

Information about candles:

  1. Candlemakers make candles from many things including cow fat, sheep fat, whale fat, beeswax (made by honey bees), and paraffin wax (from oil or coal).
  2. Candlemakers add scents to candles such as vanilla, rose, lavender, or pine fragrance oils to generate a pleasant smell as candles burn.
  3. Today, in the United States, most people have electric lights. People still often use candles for ceremonial purposes, for decoration, or to generate a pleasant smell.


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

  • After reading or listening to the story, narrate the story events aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Draw the Story

  • Look at the picture of the candles below and draw them.

Activity 3: Color the Story   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 12 of 'History Coloring Pages for First Grade.'

Activity 4: Study the Story Picture

  • Study the picture below of Benjamin Franklin. Zoom in to see the details.
  • What is Benjamin Franklin doing? (He is reading a book, holding an apple, and leaning against a table.)
  • Describe Benjamin Franklin's clothing. (He wears a work apron over a loose shirt, tight pants, and slip on shoes.)
  • Describe Benjamin Franklin's hair. (His hair is longer than shoulder-length, probably in accordance with the style of the times.)
  • See if you can find the following items: Funnel, pliers, three-legged table, and crank handle.


Question 1

Why couldn't Benjamin Franklin go to school as a young boy?
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Answer 1

He was poor and had to work to survive.
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Question 2

What did Benjamin Franklin do for work?
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Answer 2

He sold candles and soap.
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Question 3

How did Benjamin Franklin learn so many things?
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Answer 3

He learned by reading many books.
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  1. Why couldn't Benjamin Franklin go to school as a young boy? He was poor and had to work to survive.
  2. What did Benjamin Franklin do for work? He sold candles and soap.
  3. How did Benjamin Franklin learn so many things? He learned by reading many books.