One of the projects I am involved in is a program where a group of retired folks work in schools to facilitate after-school reading groups with middle graders. One piece of my work is to write curriculum about books that (we hope) are high-interest and wide-ranging in subject, so groups will have many options as they make choices about what they hope to read.
I’ve been trying to advocate for nonfiction options on the team have tackled a few non-fiction titles so far. I’ve had Bomb by Steve Sheinkin on my list for awhile, but I was a bit worried about it. The story of the race to build the atomic bomb is full of complex politics, a cast of many characters, and some science I’m not totally sure I understand. I was worried that it might be hard to make accessible, fun curricular materials for such a complex narrative. I mean, I knew the book would be great, but I was worried that my curriculum might be, well, not great.
But I shouldn’t have worried. Bomb taught me I was wrong. It was easy to write deep questions and lessons about this great book. It had everything, including high drama, spy intrigue, and ethical dilemmas ripe for rich discussion. Instead of struggling for enough material to cover a whole variety of skills (a program goal), it was sometimes tough to trim the ideas down.
So nonfiction teaches me yet again that too often I have sold it short. I can’t wait to see what happens when reading groups take on this text, sometimes with a facilitator who has his or her own memories of these events.
I’m more convinced than ever that texts like this will be great to add to the nonfiction reading diets of our students. So I’m interested in other suggestions. What other non-fiction texts do you think would be good to incorporate into our curricula for middle graders?