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Nonfiction Resources

girllaptopFrom art to world languages there are quality electronic resources in every subject area.

An increasing number of resources combine software applications that must be downloaded with online content. For example, Google Earth is a popular tool for accessing geographic information. A downloaded computer application accesses web-based content.

Seek out materials designed for the specific needs and interests of young people. For instance Tween Tribune is an online news resources for preteen young people.

As you explore nonfiction materials, consider what type of resource is most effective for the type of information sought. For example, blogs are great for tracking current events and local resources. The Barcode Blog from the Rockerfeller University Program for the Human Environment focuses on current scientific discoveries related to DNA.

Wading through web resources can be time-consuming, so the pages listed below provide some of the best starting points for traditional subject areas for children and young adults

Nonfiction Software and Apps

Mobile apps are becoming a popular way to access information. These applications are downloaded to devices such as smartphones and tablets like the iPad. Many free and low cost nonfiction resources are available for these devices.

Even very young children are using mobile apps. Avokiddo Emotions uses fun games and tools to share information about emotions (shown below).


The Chemical Touch by Christopher Fennell is an app for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad that explores the properties of elements, the standard amino acids, and the nucleobases. The periodic table and chemical information companion provide a wealth of easy-to-access information (see below left).

Chemical TouchDino

In Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History Collections, users can explore hundreds of images of dinosaurs and learn facts about each (see above right). In Cosmic Discoveries, users can explore nearly a 1000 astronomic images and information.

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming part of a museum experience. For instance, the American Museum of Natural History has an app called AMNH Explorer that can be used to chart a course through the museum. It provides a personal tour for visitors.

Zoo WhoReference Materials

From dictionaries to encyclopedia, many reference materials are available as apps. For instance, Math Ref provides reference materials in the area of math. The Convert app is helpful as a unit calculator.

Many of these applications come from authoritative sources such as World Atlas HD from National Geographic Society. Websites are also turning their resources into apps. For instance has a dictionary available.

Reference materials are popular apps. For instance, Zoo Who? An Animal Encyclopedia provides information including text, audio, and video related to 600 animals (see image on left).

Field guides are available for outdoor activities. MyNature Tree Guide helps with tree identification. Cliff Notes are also available.

Digital Collections

Many museums are sharing their collections as apps. For instance the Love Art app provides access to the National Gallery, London (see below left). The Lourve Museum is also available. Fans of Vincent Van Gogh can download a unique app containing both artwork and writings of the famous artist (see below right).



As you explore informational materials on mobile devices, think about how they will be used.

Reading. Some information resources are presented in an e-book type format. For instance, Achievers Writing Center is an app that has been called the "ultimate essay writing handbook" for high school and college students. This ebook contains 45 chapters of writing instructions and resources. The digital transcriptions for many primary sources documents are available through apps. We The People provides the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Shakespeare Pro contains the complete works of Shakespeare with a concordance search to find specific words and phrases (see below left). As you evaluate resources think about the screen size and the ability to change font sizes and easily scroll through and search for information.


As you select apps, be sure to match the reading level of youth with the content presented in the app. Encyclopedia Britannica has a series of apps designed specifically for kids. Britannica Kids: Solar System includes images, captions, and videos along with games. Other titles include Volcanoes, Ancient Egypt, Endangered Species and Ancient Rome.

Go to Encyclopedia Britannica Kids Apps Series. Think about whether the content of each option would match particular youth interests or needs.

Quality Images. Seek out apps with quality images. For instance, National Parks from National Geographic provides interactive guides to 25 of America's most visited national park (shown below). Quality images are woven into each entry. In addition, photo galleries are provided.

national parksnational parksnational parks

Media Enhancements. While some apps simply present text information, others include a full range of features including images, audio, video, glossaries, and quizzes. For instance, Mitosis by Standard Nine walks users through the process of mitosis incorporating a wide range of features (see above center). The Brain Tutor 3D provides rotatable 3D models of the human brain along with text information.

The Yoga Stretch app provides customized yoga sessions and information with music.

In The Human Body, users exploring a working model of the human body through animation and interactive elements.


Interactive Enhancements. Many apps incorporate interactive elements such as games, quizzes, and other engaging features. Visit the Zoo Interactive Environment explores the habitats of various animals.


Internet Enhancements. As you select resources, consider whether the app is stand-alone or requires Internet access. For instance, 3D Sun provides information about the sun. With an Internet connection, it also provides news about solar activity (see above right).

Some tools such as AllTheCountries Pro provide detailed information about each country, but also provide links for additional text and images with links to Wikipedia, Google, Flickr and more.

Watch a video showing iPad iMagineering from Penguin Books.
Explore some examples of how the iPad can be used with youth.

National Geographic BoxAlthough apps are currently the most popular software, don't forget about disc-based software. Like nonfiction books, nonfiction software provides in-depth information on a particular topic. Some products are similar to print materials and others have special features. For example, the CD-ROM series called The Complete National Geographic (shown on left) contains the complete set of National Geographic magazines. Each page has been carefully scanned in color. A search tool is provided so that students can search for any topic such as mummies as shown.

Discovery Channel produces a series of CDs that can be used in connection with their other educational materials. For instance, Orion Starry Night Enthusiast takes users on 70 interactive multimedia tours of the universe.

dkDK Interactive Learning has a number of nonfiction CDs including Ultimate Human Body and Dinosaur Hunter that are popular with children.  Some software packages are based on books. The New Way Things Work is an example (shown on right).

Informational resources often provide main menus, indexes, and other tools to help users locate materials of interest. In addition to information, some of these resources also provide games to help students explore the information. Take care when selecting these resources for young children. Consider the reading and interest level of your students. For example, dinosaurs are popular with first graders, but the reading level in some of the popular CDs may be too difficult for your students. The package may still be very useful for the pictures and the animated movies, but don’t expect your students to be able to read the text.

Many offerings for children and young adults combine information with games and activities. For example I Love the USA by DK provides information about people, places, and pastimes in the USA while helping students learning about the 50 states.

It's likely that you won't buy many new CD/DVD titles for your library. However, many of these older titles are still great for classrooms and families with older computers.

Websites: Primary Sources

Primary resources are materials that were created from first-hand experience. They include items such as letters, government documents, photographs, and pieces of clothing. Today, many of these materials are available online through digital reproduction. In other words, the primary sources have been scanned or photographed for sharing on the web. In addition, hand-written items such as diaries and letters have been transcribed and these digital transcriptions are also available.

Read the following materials related to primary sources from the website E-scrapbooking. Begin with Primary Sources. Also, read Digital Reproduction, Digital Transcription, and Interpretation.

Primary resources viewed in isolated are often difficult to understand. This is particularly true for children and young adults. As such, it's useful to provide environments where these items can be interpreted. Interpretation involves examining documents and making associations that help people understand the content and context of the item in terms of place and time.

A few years ago, I developed a fun project focusing on primary source materials. An inquiry-based approach is a wonderful way to get youth excited about primary sources and history.
Read the project the Diary of Louise B. Hancock from escrapbooking. This website follows the process of examining an historic diary and putting it into context.

There are many different types of primary resources that are available through electronic databases and websites.

Electronic Databases. Newspapers can be found through electronic databases. Many well-known historical and government documents are also available through databases.

Websites. Many universities, libraries, museums, historical societies, and government agencies are sponsoring projects that are digitizing primary sources for access on the web.

Go to E-scrapbooking. Browse some of the categories including Audio, Autobiographies, Data and Statistics, Digital Collections, Diaries, Objects, Scrapbooks, and Video. I'm aware that some of these links need updated. It's on my "to do" list.

Explore a few of the following popular digital collections:

Explore real-world data sources:

Primary Resources in Learning

vendorPrimary sources can provide insights for children and young adults into what life was like in different time periods. They can serve as a useful tool in making comparisons with life today. For example, as students explore topics related to economics, they might compare the life of a street vendor from the 1930s with a street vendor today.

Data and statistics resources can help students see relationships such as comparisons between populations of two areas or climates of different regions.

The key to learning is the way that primary sources are presented. How can you make primary resources come alive by connecting these with meaningful, real-world questions and problems?

Explore some of the following teaching resources related to primary source materials:

Introduce the Historical and Cultural Contexts interactive on a whiteboard. Then ask students to work their way through the materials on their own using some of the following evaluate tools.

Explore real-world data projects for youth:

Read Social Studies in the Spotlight: Inquiry, Primary Sources, and Informational Reading, 7-12. This online workshops exploring the connection between inquiry-based learning, primary sources, and informational reading for youth.

Content-Rich Websites

Specialty resources are available in each subject area. It's important to be available of the best online resources for parents, educators, and youth.

Informational websites provides opportunities for real-world, information reading. Some examples include:

Go to Content-Rich Websites and explore each of the following areas. I'm aware that some of these links need updated. It's on my "to do" list.

Go to the Fluid Environments for Learning workshop. Explore the following subject-area resources.

try itTry It!
Spend some time exploring content-rich websites. Think about how you might organize these valuable online resources for use by youth.

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