Non-Fiction Really Can be Fun for Kids. Really.

Oh, the dreaded non-fiction books for kids. Yes ... I am going there.


OK, the dreaded non-fiction books for kids category.  Yes ... I am going there.

I have to say that kids do love the weird and strange animal books, the funny fact books and some of the history of war books, but sadly these are not the books I am talking about.  

I am talking about the straight-up non-fiction books, that tell the story of real people and events. These are the books that include facts, dates, definitions and places. I know that many kids (and frankly, this adult) shudder at the thought of reading these books. They lack imagination, exciting narrative and the leap from reality.

But sadly, we can't give in to our temptation to run from these stories. With the new common core standards being implemented nationwide, kids will be reading more and more non-fiction. We are trying to prepare our children to become literate in a world where they are required to become responsible citizens, prepare for careers, and better understand the real challenges that face the nations around us. As a result, they need to be able to understand and use evidence to come to reasonable conclusions, and non-fiction is a wonderful vehicle to help them develop these skills.

Happily, non-fiction continues to get better and better for children. The stories are more compelling and are written in a way that will engage kids.  But this genre is not always going to appeal to kids immediately. They need to develop this skill set, and when they do, they will see how exciting and liberating the knowledge gained through books can be.

So, encourage your kids to step out of their comfort zone. I hope this week's offerings will provide a nice bridge between fiction and non-fiction and show kids that what happens in real life can be just as wondrous and compelling as what is made up in a story.

Title:        Bomb  

Author:    Steve Sheinkin  

Target:     Grades 6 and up 

What this book is about:

This book is a fascinating look at how a discovery in a German lab in 1938, that a uranium atom could split in two, lead to one of the greatest races to make the first atomic bomb. Germany, Russia and the U.S. knew that the first one to have a weapon of this magnitude, would be the one to win the war. They devoted scientists and resources to make this happen, and in the case of Russia, quite a few spies to help speed their process along. This book profiles the US.. program, their patriotism, their eventual success and their self doubt at what they had accomplished.

Why I love this book:

This story was just fascinating. I have to say that some of the more suspenseful scenes, where the U.S. attempts to blow up a heavy water plant in Norway controlled by the Germans, were all the more heart-stopping because it wasn’t fiction. This was real life, and these were real people, and the outcome could be good or bad. I was on the edge of my seat.

I must say that there were a lot of characters in the book, and at times I had trouble keeping track. I would have also liked the pictures scattered throughout the book when they were relevant and not simply at the beginning of a section. I think the photos could have been used in a much more powerful way. I kept flipping back and forth and that stopped the flow of the story for me. But overall, it was as incredible account of the people and events of the time.

Who this book is for:

This book is for older kids. At times it reads like a terrific story, and at others felt more like facts. Kids have to be interested in the subject matter and be willing to wade through some parts that are more data-driven.  I will say the science in the book is not complex. The story is not about physics but about the men and women behind the creation of the bomb.

Final thoughts:

This book is garnering quite a lot of attention, but for me the draw was feeling like I really understood a part of our history with so much more comprehension after having read it. To paraphrase, I felt a whole lot smarter!

To see my full selection of non fiction titles, visit my website at www.onegreatbook.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robin February 01, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Thanks for sharing this! I've found that younger kids (first/second graders) are really in to nonfiction, and then it starts changing. Another thing - adults, you wouldn't believe how well written 'kid' books are! Some of my favorite books are books I've read as adults that were for kids. Since I love history, I think I'll head over to the library and check out Bomb for myself! Thank you for suggesting it!
Freya Hooper February 05, 2013 at 01:48 AM
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. As an adult I have adored so many of the "kids" books I review and I often find the non-fiction books to be just as compelling as the adult fare.


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