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General Nonfiction

Reference

Fascinating Facts

Biographies

Drawing Books

Jokes and Riddles

Checklist

How Do I Choose
Nonfiction Books for Our Library?

    by Lori Ragsdale

Afterschool program libraries that want to add to their nonfiction collection have a variety of resources they can call on. This month, Iíll point you to some websites that feature recommended books in various categories, and provide a checklist to help you decide which books to purchase

General Nonfiction

Award-winning books could be a good start for your nonfiction collection. The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, which include a nonfiction category, have been given annually since 1967. You might start with the winners for 2003 and then work backward to the award-winning nonfiction for 2000 - 2002. Also, this monthís Bookshelf reviews books that won the Orbis Pictus awards for 2004.

Other reliable websites also recommend good nonfiction books to add to your collection. The Free Library of Philadelphia provides a great list of nonfiction for children grades 3-6, or check out the comprehensive list, categorized by subject, from Powellís independent bookstore in Chicago.

Reference Books

Kids love to find information in dictionaries, atlases, and almanacs. These kinds of books donít have to be expensive. The Guinness Book of World Records is always popular with kids who want to find quick facts. Amazon offers Guinness and recommendations of similar "fun fact" books for children.

Fascinating Facts

The Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness Books series includes books on subjects from art to zoology. With their fascinating photographs, illustrations, and diagrams, this series will appeal to children of almost any age—and most adults, too!

Biographies

Kids enjoy reading about famous people, whether they are sports figures, presidents, entertainers, or inventors. The Young Patriots series features biographies of historical figures for younger elementary kids. The Career Kids Career Biography series includes 20 titles, for older children, about famous business people. You may also want to check out Roz Levineís Amazon Listmania "Terrific Introductory Biographies for Kids" or the extensive list of sport biographies from Powellís bookstore.

Drawing Books

Kids love to draw. They can stay busy for hours with a few simple materials—paper, crayons, colored pencils, markers. Ed Emberley and Lee J. Ames both have series of drawing books that show kids how to break images down into simple step-by-step drawings. Once kids learn the basics, they can use their imaginations to draw in their own personal style.

Jokes and Riddles

The jokes might drive you crazy, but kids, especially grades 1-5, love them! The sillier the joke, the better. Abusinessbee and PBS Kids offer lists of good joke books.

Checklist: How to Select Quality Nonfiction

When choosing nonfiction materials for your collection, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the information current? Good factual materials should not be more than five years old. After all, you donít want your kids reading that "man may someday land on the moon"! However, books that donít rely on facts—drawing books or books of jokes and riddles, for example—can be older.
  • Are the illustrations colorful and exciting? Photographs, drawings, and other illustrations help kids understand the facts and make the materials appealing for children of a wide range of ages.
  • What ages and reading levels do the materials target? Simple, basic materials are best for beginning readers, while books that cover a subject in more depth are appropriate for independent readers.
  • Do the materials address the interests of the kids? As always, itís important to choose materials that your readers find interesting. Get input from your kids—do they want books about sports? Animals? Art? The best nonfiction book does no one any good if it sits on the shelf because the children arenít interested in the subject.

For more guidelines on choosing books, try Scholastic Books or McGraw-Hillís resources on choosing books for children.

If you use these resources and guidelines to develop your programís nonfiction book collection, youíll open up fascinating new worlds for your kids.


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