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Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan is here with this week's book suggestions again. You are treating us to some amazing choices, Dr. Kaplan. Thank you for such a helpful and timely contribution!
To remind, Jeffrey S. Kaplan, PhD, is Associate Professor Emeritus in the School of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership in the College of Education and Human Performance, University of Central Florida, Orlando and Senior Adjunct Professor/Chair/Methodologist for College of Doctoral Studies, Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona.
Are you curious about the world?
About why things are?
And who did what?
I know I am – and many young adults are. They are curious about their world – and how it works. New to everything, they wonder daily about everything - about the lives of famous people – about how they became famous and what were they like before – to why is the sky blue – and how can I make a million dollars? And more importantly, how can they achieve – or at least, survive – to live a rewarding and self-fulfilling life.
For true, not every teen wants to be famous. But most teens want to understand their world – and of course, themselves. They want to understand how their body works, how their parents think, and how the world evolves – often at the hands of people who change the way in which we live – seemingly effortlessly, miraculously, and often, hidden from plain view.
I mean – do you remember when cordless phones were not a reality? When flying into space was considered science fiction? Or when heating things up meant turning on the oven – and praying you did not burn yourself?
Yes, long before cell phones, space shuttles, and microwaves – human beings spent years coming up with inventions that changed our lives dramatically. And often, we forget how difficult and tenuous this journey towards human progress was – and remains. Yet, through it all, there is always the ever-present curiosity of wonder. Of how things work and who invented what – and why?
Here are four keen nonfiction books – especially tailored to adolescent readers – that should grace every classroom bookshelf – as they are genuine discussion starters for any classroom lesson on learning about the stuff in life that we are often curious about – but sometimes know little about – and why it is important to know...
by Dan Nott (Random House Graphic, 2023)
I love graphic novels – and this one is no exception. Graphic novels capture the attention of readers young and old alike – for simply and smartly, they introduce readers to words and pictures – in an engaging and thoughtful narrative. Full of great drawings, diagrams and of course, maps, Hidden Systems shares with readers a humorous, fact-filled exploration of the history of science – and how scientific discoveries have and continue to change our world.
Thought-provoking drawings and commentaries answer questions like – How does water flow into our homes? How does electricity make our lives brighter? How does the Internet really work? - For every common day occurrence – water, electricity, text messaging – there is a story filled with great intrigue, humor and even inequity – as this good book reveals how the choices inventors made still influence the way we live today.
by Davinia Tomlinson and illustrated by Andrea Oerter (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2023)
Written with young women in mind – this good resource certainly transcends gender. Money is a natural object of desire – the lack of confidence in openly discussing money matters - is an essential read – for any young person who needs to develop positive financial habits and become, eventually, financially independent.
The focus on young girls – as financial expert Davinia Tomlinson explains – is that a positive relationship with money as an adult must be cultivated in childhood – and especially, with females – as young girls are often thought as far happier discussing virtually anything but bank balances. Although this attitude might seem antiquated in retrospect, there remains a real need to discuss the saving, spending, and ‘stashing’ of cash – for all teens – as their understanding of money – and how to use and not use it – remains as relevant today as it always has.
Sound, succinct, and reasonable, this good book is essential reading for all teens – as they journey to self-discovery in identifying the steps needed to take to become financially healthy, wealthy, and wise.
by Hedi Fried. Translated by Alice E. Olsson, illustrated by Laila Ekboir (Scribble, 2023)
Hedi Fried was 19 years-old when she and her family were captured, arrested, and transported by the Nazis to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Fortunately – for the lack of a better term – Heidi and her sister were sentenced to hard labor – before miraculously surviving and being released when rescued by the allies.
Settling in Sweden, Hedi Fried devoted her life – as so many who survived the Holocaust have done – to sharing with others – young and old alike – about her experiences – and how she managed to live to speak about the seemingly inexplicable. Finally, in her 90s (of all ages), she decided to answer the most common questions – in book form – and fortunately, readers – especially, young people – now have a deeply human retelling of real-world events that urges us to never forget and to never repeat.
Told simply, clearly, and plainly, this good work is the perfect conversation starter for educators to teach young people about the Holocaust from her lived experience. Illustrated in muted colors, Fried asks simple questions like “Why did Hitler hate the Jews?” and “Why did Jews not fight back?” Finally, Fried draws contemporary analogies to today’s issues of social injustice faced by minorities and refugees alike.
by Mental Health America. Illustrated by Gemma Correll (Rocky Pond Books, 2023)
I know that as a public-school teacher, I saw countless young people who felt that they were the only people in the world enduring the hardships of coming of age – of not knowing who they really were – and what they felt was normal – or not. This good work reassures young people in clear, honest, and straightforward language just what it means to be human – to feel lonely, depressed, and unworthy – and how to talk about your feelings with family, friends, and professionals.
Fortunately, gone are the days – for the most part – where seeking professional help was considered an emotional and psychological flaw – that somehow, admitting to a mental health issue was tantamount to saying you were ‘crazy’ – and in public, no less. With insightful, funny drawings by acclaimed cartoonist Gemma Correll, this handy jargon-free informative read published by Mental Health America, the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with emotional issues, is most suitable for classroom discussion and of course, quiet contemplation.
These are four contemporary non-fiction reads for young people. Told simply, carefully, and engagingly, these good books will do much to satisfy the needs of all – who hunger for information and desire to know more about the world in which they live and the human condition in which they inhabit. Too often, non-fiction is considered the parlance of social studies classrooms – or special electives, like health education - or programs honoring historical events, such as D-Day or Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday.
Why not make the study of non-fiction an everyday occurrence – and introduce to young people the choices, discoveries, and understandings – of everyday events – as a part of their everyday lives – in and outside the classroom door? After all, the more they read, the more they will know.