By Nancy Churnin
In Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking 1983 work, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he explains how people learn in different ways – musically, kinesthetically, verbally, interpersonally, intrapersonally, as well as logically. One form isn’t better than another. The important thing is to figure out a child’s best way of processing information and teaching with that in mind. Even within a smaller field such as nonfiction, we can see that there are different ways of presenting information about a similar subject.
Independence Day provides a perfect example. The Nonfiction Ninjas are all dedicated to the craft of nonfiction for children, but wow – the incredible variety in the stories they tell for July 4 should inspire writers to explore the many ways a topic can be explored and parents and educators to consider how different approaches might connect with individual kids. Pick a book and pair it up with a craft for a memory to treasure.
For the youngest children, Michelle Medlock Adams offers a board book, What is America? In simple, rhyming language, Illustrated by Amy Wummer and published by WorthyKids, it touches on symbols such as the flag and the Statue of Liberty, but concludes that the ideas of freedom and democracy are more important than symbols and monuments.
For elementary school kids ready to dig into thoughtful picture book biographies, Peggy Thomas offers two award-winners about our Founding Fathers, both published by Calkins Creek. Farmer George Plants a Nation (illustrated by Layne Johnson), draws from Washington’s letters and diaries, to focus on our first president not as a politician or even general, but as a farmer, inventor, and scientist. Similarly, Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation (illustrated by Stacy Innerst) shows our third president as a planter who loved to watch things grow, making a connection with how he cultivated his garden and the expansion of the new nation.
Kids will find a compelling perspective on what patriotism means in The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers. This fictional story, illustrated by Ard Hoyt and published by Puffin Books, has the ring of truth because Linda draws from a mix of real and personal experiences to craft this poignant story of a boy who has to come up with a patriotism project for class. Caleb longs for help from his father, who is away at war, and his solution reminds us of the tough sacrifices made by the families of those who serve to give us the freedom that we celebrate.
Middle graders can dig with delight into Top. Secret Files: American Revolutionary Spies, Secret Missions, and Hidden Figures from the American Revolution from Stephanie Bearce (Prufrock Press), and learn how George Washington had his own secret agents, hired pirates to fight the British, and helped Congress smuggle weapons.
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The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.