Ask any teacher what they want kids to do over the summer and most will reply: read. Of course we teachers all want kids to be outside, enjoying the summer weather and swimming and playing, but we also want them reading. Learning to enjoy reading, and reading for the sake of enjoyment, is a pastime that will have lifelong benefits. A person who reads is an informed person who is better able to analyze what is fact and what is fiction.
It’s important to find the right books to entice kids to read during the summer when there are so many other possibilities for fun. Look at some of these nonfiction books by National Geographic and pick a few that your kids might enjoy. Warning: you will enjoy reading them, too!
“101 Life Hacks: Genius Ways to Simplify Your World” by Aubre Andrus is one of the small square books that are the perfect size for packing into a suitcase and reading while on vacation. And actually it might be worth reading it before leaving as hack #21 is how to pack more efficiently. With great illustrations, page 50 and 51 show how to use a shirt and socks to roll up a day’s outfit into a small, suitcase-ready tube. And on the previous page is a hack using a zip lock bag to make a hands-free carrier for watching phones on planes or in cars. Once you start reading, it’s hard to stop. Each hack is fascinating and—best of all—useful. From how to tie a square knot to how to know how much time before the sun sets, this compact 200-page book is fun and filled with real tricks to make life easier. The whole family will enjoy reading it.
As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the fervor with which students devour the National Geographic Almanacs. Now in a smaller edition, the “Almanac 2022” features (as stated on the front cover) 500 “incredible photos.” And truly, National Geographic does have amazing photos. The information in this small-but-packed book is different from the information in the previous book. Here we have categories like “Your World 2022” which informs us about “Bookstore Kittens” and “Hound Heroes,” “Amazing Animals” and includes “10 Adorable Facts about Animal Babies.” Kids (and adults) love that stuff! Did you know that female red squirrels adopt abandoned squirrel babies and raise them? Or that a newborn dolphin is born with a tiny patch of hair on its chin? History, geography, science and technology, culture, space, and the wonders of nature are all covered in this wonderful little treasure. It’s an entertaining book to pick up and look through, but it’s also informative and filled with science and history that might just get some kids interested in school and studying!
Another small, square book with information that will keep everyone turning just one more page to read just one more interesting fact is “More Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff.” This book has a Table of Contents, and Chapter One, “Odds & Ends,” shares the origins of items as diverse as tissues, hair combs and the Swiss army knife. Other chapters cover toys, clothing (buttons, purses, diapers), medicine, food, and ancient inventions like the wheel and concrete. In fact, the information is so interesting that while writing this review I paused to investigate some of the entries. Families will have fun opening the book to a new piece of information each night. It’s a perfect choice to bring on vacation because it will fit easily into a carry-on bag or purse (or diaper bag). Pick a different subject each night. Have a trivia contest after reading the whole book! Research a topic after reading about it and see how much more there is to learn about it! The possibilities are endless. So is the fun.
A book that is the size of a magazine is “Kids vs. Plastic: Ditch the Straw and Find the Pollution Solution to Bottles, Bags, and Other Single-Use Plastics” which, on the front cover, exhorts the kids with the exclamation “How YOU can be a WASTE WARRIOR!” This actually, might be the best book to bring on a vacation. Why, you wonder? Well when we are on vacation, we tend to not think as much about recycling and using single-use plastic items. Picnic on the beach? Getting take-out dinner? Make it easy. But you might change your mind once you read this information-filled book about the ocean of plastic that is destroying the ocean at a level that we can’t even see. We see the graphic photos of a pelican with plastic trash covering its mouth, but we may not know that microplastics and tiny pieces of plastic, some smaller than a sesame seed, are ingested by sea creatures. Not only does that make it harder for those creatures to eat actual food with real nutritional value, the toxic chemicals in the plastic can cause death. Who knew that a lot of our clothes are made from plastic-based fabrics, and that when we wash them, microplastics end up in the waterways. Pollution also has a toxic effect on the environment and one double page spread shows a map of the world and what different countries are doing to try to stem the flood of chemical pollution from plastics by passing environmental laws. From personal experience, I know a friend who takes an empty suitcase with her on vacation so that she can bring back her recycling from other countries that don’t recycyle. I visited Kenya three years ago and my daughter and I collected and brought cloth reusable bags for people there because there is a ban on plastic bags. We filled a large suitcase with the bags and the recipients were very grateful. This book is filled with information but also practical ideas about how we can help. Incidentally, of all these books, this was the one my almost-five-year-old grandson wanted me to read him, and it’s the one he chose to take home.
The last book is the only hardcover book in the bunch, “Top Secret: Spies, Codes, Capers, Gadgets, and Classified Cases Revealed” by Crispin Boyer and Suzanne Zimbler. As with the other National Geographic Kids offerings, this nonfiction book includes brightly organized information and photos. The table of contents lists the eight chapters which include: Secret Agencies, Secret Identities, Secret History, Secret Plans, Secret Gadgets, Secret Codes, Secret Places and Secrets All Around You. The first page is a warning. “The information in this book is TRIPLE TOP SECRET (highlighted in yellow), supremely classified, strictly confidential, and possibly downright dangerous if it winds up in the wrong hands. Other warnings are that the information is for “authorized eyes only” and only to be read if you have the “Highest level security clearances.” Then we get to try to crack some codes and learn about the Caesal Cipher, the Keyboard Cipher, and the Cipher Wheel, to name just a few. Adults reading this might be disappointed to learn that it’s a myth that spies are all suave and have impeccable fashion sense. We learn about modern-day spies like Lindsay Moran, who worked for the CIA for years. Her favorite book growing up was, appropriately, “Harriet the Spy.” We learn about corporate espoinage in—of all industries—the candy business! There’s the story of the breakout from Alcatraz Prison, and other famous escapes. And the page titled “Out of Sight” explains about cloaking technology and how it works. The only thing that your child will hate about this book is the fact that the adults will want to read it first. It’s that engaging and informative. Really.
So fill your kids’ brains with reading and fascinating information using all or any combination of these graphic-filled, engaging and fun-to-read books. Then, as a bonus, you can donate them to your child’s classroom in the fall. Your child’s teacher and her students will appreciate it.
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by the publisher, National Geographic Kids, for review purposes.