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Growing Reader

Tween

16 Nonfiction Books Kids Will
Actually Read

by Kari Ness Riedel

Nonfiction-Books-Kids-Read
Photography by Seana Williamson

Over the past couple of years, you may have noticed your child’s teachers placing greater emphasis on reading nonfiction. With the adoption of Common Core standards in many states, elementary-school students are now expected to spend 50% of their reading time on literature and 50% on informational texts (i.e., nonfiction) to help them develop a deeper knowledge of the world.

While some kids naturally gravitate toward informational writing, those who love a good story often feel that reading nonfiction is a chore. Here are 16 nonfiction books that have gotten rave reviews from young readers.

  • Life Stories

  • Thanks to Frances Perkins

    by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell

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    Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson tells the story of Frances Perkins in this picture book biography. Frances began fighting for workers’ rights after witnessing a terrible industrial fire that killed dozens of people. Because of her efforts, Americans now enjoy better work conditions and the Social Security program.
    (Ages 6 – 9)

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  • Stay Curious!

    by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, illustrated by Boris Kulikov

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    Stephen Hawking’s scientific discoveries changed how we view the entire universe, and it all started with a curious young boy who constantly asked questions. This picture book biography details his life, from a precocious childhood to his ALS diagnosis and one brilliant discovery after another.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Courage Like Kate

    by Anna Crowley Redding, illustrated by Emily Sutton

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    Kate grew up helping her father run their lighthouse. When she was twelve, her father became ill, and Kate took over the lighthouse duties. She spent her life guiding ships to safety and pulling sailors from the sea, but it took 35 years before she received an official title. It’s a beautiful, true story about perseverance, courage, and making a difference.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Fauja Singh Keeps Going

    by Simran Jeet Singh, illustrated by Baljinder Kaur

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    Fauja Singh is a world record holder for being the first 100-year-old to run a full marathon. (Yes, you read that right!) Readers of all ages will be moved by his story, which touches on disability, immigration, Sikhism, and incredible perseverance.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid

    by Mikaila Ulmer

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    Fifteen-year-old Mikaila Ulmer has a heart for conservation and the drive of an entrepreneur, which she channeled into creating a fully-fledged business, Me & the Bees Lemonade. Part memoir, part business guide, and part call to change the world, Bee Fearless is a must-read.
    (Ages 10+)

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  • Nonfiction Narratives for More Advanced Readers

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Anna Hymas

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    This Young Readers Edition tells the exciting story of William Kamkwamba, a young boy from Malawi, and how he used scrap metal to invent a windmill and bring electricity to his tiny village. His journey is inspiring and gives kids a broader, more global perspective.
    (Ages 10+)

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  • What Was the Titanic?

    by Stephanie Sabol, illustrated by Gregory Copeland

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    The story of the Titanic and how the magnificent ship met its doom fascinates kids. This short book offers young readers an overview of the conditions and mistakes that led to the notable maritime disaster and the rediscovery of the sunken ship almost a century later. Pictures, facts, and a fast-paced narrative keep young readers glued to the page.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • Amelia Lost

    by Candace Fleming

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    Candace Fleming’s exploration of the infamous Amelia Earhart — her extraordinary accomplishments, doomed final flight, and modern legacy — proves to readers that history can be as thrilling as fantasy, as suspenseful as mystery, and as poignant as the best of fiction.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • When Stars Are Scattered

    by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy

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    This National Book Award Finalist shares the real-life experience of Omar Mohamed, a Somali refugee who lives with his younger brother in a camp in Kenya. When Omar gets the opportunity to attend school, he knows it’s his chance to create a better life for them. This graphic novel gives readers a peek into a refugee’s life, challenges, and hope.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • How We Got to the Moon

    by John Rocco

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    The story of Apollo 11’s moon landing doesn’t belong only to Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts. It’s also the story of 400,000 people, from engineers to factory workers, who helped NASA during the space race. This is the sort of book one pores over, full of mind-blowing facts and unforgettable stories that culminated in one giant leap for mankind.
    (Ages 10+)

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2022.