Everybody likes a good story.
Each story shared by a gifted writer or talented storyteller mentally pulls us out of our here-and-now routines and into new perspectives, new situations, and new adventures. Stories lead us into relationships with interesting characters and, through their encounters within fabulously orchestrated events, exotic cultures and mesmerizing locations. Stories invite us to dream about new possibilities for ourselves and for our world.
Coming home from the library with a tote full of storybooks for kids or fiction novels for older readers is like bringing home a pop-up birthday party. “Ooo! That looks like a fun story!,” exclaim the party goers who are in search of a next great adventure or laugh. However, storybooks are not the be all and end all of good reads.
Happily, the vicarious experiences found in storybooks can be complemented or often supplanted by the vast richness and tremendous power of non-story books. Nonfiction books shine a spotlight on what actually IS. What is available here, TODAY, in our lives, on this planet, teaming with unique and fascinating creatures, cultures and their peoples, and all the way out into the solar system.
Factual and reflective accounts of reality make fabulous reading for children and adults alike. Even the very youngest readers and listeners can enjoy ideas and introductory insights into every area of science, mathematics, health, history and more.
Nonfiction books range from robot explorations of the reachable planets and the bottom of Earth’s seas, to the presentation of species visible only through powerful microscopes. They show us the beauty of wild and domesticated animals, plains, mountains, forests, glaciers, weather and history. They bring scholars into our homes, representing true authority in every subject in a manner that serves to inform and educate. They help us learn about the lives of admirable people and expand our sense of humanity.
For ideas about great nonfiction reads, take a look at the Orbis Pictus Award, announced by the National Council of Teachers of English. Each year, one book is selected for its “…excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children.” This year’s choice is A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation, written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
As families add to their book collections, nonfiction choices deserve abundant shelf space alongside beloved stories.