Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top Reasons to Buy a Great Nonfiction Book for a Kid on Your List

(with tips below on how to make a great match)

With gift-giving holidays just around the corner, here’s an idea for that hard-to-buy-for kid on your list. How about a great nonfiction book? Here’s why this gift can be a real winner:

* It shows you know the child and his or her interests and passions. Animal lover? Football fanatic? Astronomy obsessed? You can really tailor the gift to the child’s passion.

* You’ll probably be buying a book the child doesn’t already have. Narrative nonfiction and other interesting nonfiction for kids are the best-kept book secrets around.  They can be as gripping and absorbing as fiction but rarely get the same buzz. So it’s less likely that the child already has the book.

* You’ll have something to talk about, especially if you read the book, too. Books are a great way to connect with kids. And the book will give you a chance to connect over something you know the child cares about. Maybe you could even read it aloud together. Now that would be a meaningful gift.

* If the book is interesting nonfiction, the child will be entertained while also learning something. It’s kind of what we want in all our relationships, isn’t it? We want people to like us, enjoy us, but also learn and grow from us. Great nonfiction books offer that great mix, too.

So HOW to pick the right book?

* Start with subject. If you don’t already know what interests the child, ask his or her parent.

* Scan award winners and “best of” lists for the best books on that subject area. Some good lists are:
Kirkus has released its best of 2012 list:
As has School Library Journal:
The ALA’s Sibert Medal (like the Newbery or Caldecott for nonfiction),
Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Children
For you visual-types, here’s a good pinterest site with some recent outstanding nonfiction titles:

* Match the book to the child’s age and reading level. (One caveat. Many kids I know will read slightly above their age and reading level if they are really passionate about a topic.)

* Give more than one. Can chose between two? Get them both. Maybe one is slightly more difficult than the other. Or covers a different part of the story. If a child loves one, they will probably like them both. (If you don’t want to give two at once, save one for the next birthday.)

* If a child already reads, loves and enjoys nonfiction, hand them something on a different subject than what they usually read. The best nonfiction writing will hook readers in topics that they never knew they would find interesting

* Pair the book with something fun. A stuffed lizard.  A “build your own robot kit.” A historical wig.

* If you have the time (everyone sitting around stuffed after a big holiday dinner) offer to read the
book (if it’s short) or the first chapter (for a longer book) aloud to the child. Everyone loves to be read to. And it could get them hooked.

Happy Holidays!

Elizabeth Rusch


Susan E. Goodman said...

Thanks Elizabeth, it's always great to have a champion.

I have another reason to go for nonfiction. We adults sometimes forget that the world is new to kids and therefore just as interesting as a fantasy when its story is told well. "Yep, dragons are cool, but did you know that once there was something called a dinosaur whose teeth were as long as my hand?"

Myra Zarnowski said...

Buying a nonfiction book as gift is a wonderful idea. It says, "This book can be read for pleasure."

Jim Murphy said...

I've always believed that kids want to know "the truth." About dinosaurs, the Titanic disaster, George Washington, the Battle of Gettysburg, what lions do at night, what exactly is this thing called electricity. Doesn't matter how they developed the interest, they want to know the FACTS. The important thing is to know what interests them at that moment and they will treasure that book. Great blog.