I’ve received several inquiries about which nonfiction books to purchase for middle school classroom libraries – in the content areas and in ELA classrooms.
Here are few thoughts –
Science books I’d invest in – Scientists in the Field series – these titles are well written and align with the Next Generation Science standards. They range in complexity and are appropriate for middle school. An example is The Tarantula Scientist by Sy Montgomery. You could easily just order from this series – there are plenty of titles.
Social studies – I have some “go to” authors that write engaging texts with middle school students as their audience. I’ve only listed books I’ve read by each; many have numerous books) –
- Marc Aronson (Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert)
- Martin Sandler (The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of An Amazing Arctic Adventure; Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II; also like his Through the Lens series)
- Steve Sheinkin (The Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapons; Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights; haven’t read but hear good things about his Notorious Benedict Arnold and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers)
- James Swanson (young adult version of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of JFK)
- Georgia Bragg (humorous, but historical – How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous)
- Joe Rhatigan’s White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems and Pratfalls of the President’s Kids
- new young adolescent author Neal Bascomb – The Nazi Hunters
Authors that students might need some coaching to pick up, but are worthy, worthy of reading…and once students start, they may dive in to…
- Tanya Lee Stone (Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels – America’s First Black Paratroopers)
- Jim Murphy (The Great Fire and Invicible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure; An American Plague – which has been on my shelf “to read” for years)
- Russell Freedman (Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Lincoln, A Photobiography)
- Sally M. Walker (who combines history, anthropology, forensics, and archaeology – fascinating stuff; Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917; Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland)
- Elizabeth Partridge (Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary; not a fan of her book about Woodie Guthrie, though; she has new book out about the Beatles that is sitting on my desk to read)
- Phillip Hoose (nature and history author; my favorite is Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice)
- Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow)
- Ann Bausum (Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration and Marching to the Mountain: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Hours)
- Tonya Bolden (I’m new to her work but her new title – Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America has received some notable reviews)
- Larry Dane Brimner (Black & White: The Confrontation of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor)
- Cynthia Levinson (she has only one book but it’s good! We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March)
Nonfiction graphic novels – (more and more of these are being written and well done)
- The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown
- March: Book One by John Lewis (haven’t read, but it’s already receiving awards)
- Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Satrapi (haven’t read, but again, numerous awards)
Many of the books that have won the Sibert Award or honor award would work as well – http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/sibertmedal.
For many of these books, I have written reviews including suggestions for close reading excerpts and teaching on my blog at http://www.sunday-cummins.com. When you go to my blog, look at the topics tab for book reviews and suggested instruction in grades 6-8.
I also have bookshelves with texts by topic and/or grade level at Goodreads.com – you can request to be my friend and peruse the shelves. There are lot of teachers who write reviews on Goodreads – so this might be another source to peruse.
A FINAL NOTE – Students who are used to reading fiction novels will usually not just pick these up. If you’re a classroom teacher, you’ve probably noticed this. Please consider reading aloud from nonfiction books that are in your classroom library and doing some heavy book talks! I find that if students pick up these books, they are more likely to choose nonfiction independently later.
Hope this helps. (I know always end with that – but I really do!)