I represent very few picture books, but in my personal life I’m deeply indebted to them. As I’ve mentioned countless times, my nephews are my favorite people on this planet, and at 6 and 3, their primary bond with me these days is over reading bedtime stories. The older one started associating me with reading pretty early on in life, and through an aggressive campaign of reading fun things loudly in his vicinity (often while lying on the floor so he’d be tempted to come over and torment me by climbing onto my back), I’ve gotten the little one on Team Aunts Read Books as well. Now thanks to a couple strategic buys by my mother in advance of our gathering at her house this past weekend for her birthday, the kiddos are begging for some videos I’ve promised to send of me reading their two favorites from the bunch. As they were leaving to head back home on Monday, they were devastated to cut our last reading session short at only two books, so I promised to combine their two favorite things about me: reading fun books and watching videos on my phone.
But while I was very excited to discover This Book Just Ate My Dog! this weekend, which very cleverly uses the physical book and encourages interaction, one thing I did find myself wanting was some more children’s nonfiction. When Martin Luther King came up with my older nephew, he was sort of familiar with him from some things he learned in kindergarten last week, but pretty confused about the role of water fountains in history. As we discussed, I realized I was struggling to explain Dr. King’s legacy to a child who doesn’t understand race much less racism, or to get him interested in anything beyond the fact that he won the Nobel Peace Prize (which both children were very excited to learn they could watch a video of on my phone. Injustice and civil rights fly above their head, but they know all about prizes and medals from the absurd number of sports the 6 year old plays).
Fortunately, I realize that there are experts out there who know how to talk about historical figures to children without getting caught up in attempting to explain what a dream is metaphorically. Next time I see them, I’m determined to be better prepared. So I turn to you: does anyone have any favorite nonfiction books for young children? I’d love to be able to teach them more about not only Dr. King, but other important figures and historical moments. Any pointers?