(this article ran in the News and Observer on 10/25/15; and the Charlotte Observer on October 23, 2015)
Children who appear to be nonreaders are often nonfiction readers. While fiction demands the sequential flow, factual books permit stop-and-go reading.
Nonfiction readers put down a book and return later without having to remember what’s gone before. The children’s book market has exploded with supportive titles.
There’s audio and visual support for a series for new readers. National Geographic and Live Oak Media’s book/audio sets for ages 3-5 range from Susan B. Neuman’s Jump Pup! with only one to two words per page, to Gail Tuchman’s Safari which has several patterned sentences per page. The books are clear in design and brilliant in color. The audios add sound effects, crisp pronunciations and enthusiasm.
I doubt readers will be able to put down Lisa Regan’s Watch Out Below! 3-D Battle of the Sharks (Scholastic, ages 4-8). It comes with glasses that add dimension to the underwater world as the author writes about sharks’ size, appearance, habits and danger factors.
Humor is a hit thanks to the voice of the unusual first person narrator in Bridget Heos’ I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are (Holt, ages 4-8). When the winged hero happens on bored students listening to the same old boring butterfly metamorphosis lesson, he’s got his own tale to tell, beginning dramatically as his mother tucks him and his 500 siblings into “a warm, smelly bed of dog doo.” This fly-centered life cycle story is filled with child-engaging details.
For older children there’s National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016(ages 8-11) which gives nonfiction lovers a thick volume of startling facts on many subjects. In 350 pages and 900 photographs the newest happenings in science, nature, pop culture and history are revealed – from musicians who make instruments out of ice to the invention of motorized skates. There are succinct accounts of topics like photosynthesis, steps for writing a perfect essay, and lots of word scrambles and quizzes.
It’s hard to resist the baby gorilla that beckons from the cover of Animal Planet’s Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia (Time Inc. Books, ages 9 and up). Eight chapters take kids on a highly visual tour, with more than 1,000 photos bringing 2,500 animals to life. These are delivered with fun facts and the small bites of information nonfiction fans love.
Budding scientists who want in-depth information about subjects of interest will certainly find it in one of the almost 30 volumes in the “Scientists in the Field” series. These longer, photo-filled reads for ages 9 and up are by topnotch science writers and talented photographers who capture scientists absorbed in their work. In recent titles, writer Sy Montgomery and photographer Keith Ellenbogen follow Jennifer Mather and her team of international researchers to Tahiti in The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk .
Dorothy Patent and photographer William Munoz document the work of three Montana scientists in The Call of the Osprey (both books by Houghton Mifflin).