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Nonfiction for Kids - Reference Books for 9 to 12 Year Olds

Updated on July 26, 2015

Essential Volumes for a Young Person's Own Library

A good action story is fine, but nonfiction books for kids are some of the best things ever if you are nine to twelve years old. A particularly important type of nonfiction for 9 to 12 year olds happens to be reference books.

Pre-teens are in a world in which their horizons are expanding rapidly. Their curiosity is growing along with their world. And so should their knowledge base and communication skills.

They are ready to step into reading material that will help them with their advancing skills and growing curiosity - like a first student dictionary, along with other general reference works, and single-volume encyclopedias on topics of special interest to them. You'll find a sampling of those types of nonfiction books for kids right here on this page.

Reading is Fun For Young People


A young person with their own library filled with interesting reading material is seldom bored!

A Dictionary for 8 to 12 Year Olds - Merriam-Webster's Elementary Dictionary

By about third grade, a student should be ready for a more "grown-up" looking dictionary than the ones designed for 4 to 8 year olds, one that is geared to their level.

This dictionary fills the bill.

This student dictionary from Merriam-Webster is geared age eight and older, but buying it for a bright seven year old is not a bad idea. It might also be a good 'starter' for an 11 or 12 year old who has never had a dictionary of his own.

Does a Nine Year Old Need Their Own Dictionary? - Or should they just use an adult version?

What do you think? Is it worth it to buy a a special kids dictionary or student dictionary that may only be used for a few short years? Or should you just help them use your regular Webster's Dictionary?

Should a 9 - 12 year have his or her own dictionary?

See results

For a Child's Own Library

Fiction, Reference, and Special Interest Nonfiction for Ages 8 to 12

Literacy is essential to success. Reading and learning skills are essential to literacy. Books are essential to learning. Ready access to their own personal library is important for nine to twelve year olds. That way, for them, reading material is never "out of sight, out of mind."

A few favorite classic works of fiction are usually a staple of a young person's library. Non-fiction for kids, including basic and special interest volumes should be there, too.

Scholastic Children's Thesaurus
Scholastic Children's Thesaurus

You're never too young to learn to use a thesaurus. It's a tool you'll probably use for the rest of your life if your job or hobby includes any kind of writing at all.


Reference Books Every Pre-Teen Should Have

At a minimum, age appropriate editions of the following reference works should be included in a pre-teen's own personal library:

1 - A student dictionary

2 - A spelling dictionary

3 - A student thesaurus

4 - A dictionary of idioms

5 - A world atlas for young people

6 - A kids overview or encyclopedia of world history

Basic Reference Books for Middle Grades - Dictionary, Atlas, Thesaurus, and Others

These reference works are mostly aimed at students in grades three or four through about seventh grade. Beginning in eighth grade, if not sooner, you should expect your child to begin using regular 'adult' dictionaries, atlases, and other works. Though they will probably still enjoy looking things up in their own volumes, with which they are comfortable and familiar.

Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms
Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms

Full of the really fun stuff about language that tends to fascinate children in this particular age group.

Merriam-Webster's Student Atlas
Merriam-Webster's Student Atlas

For age ten and older, though I suspect eight or nine isn't too early to be introduced to some of the topics with the help of a parent.


Special Interest Nonfiction for Youngsters

in the 9 to 12 Age Range

Boys and Girls in this age are really developing some intellectual interests. Those interests can be quite wide ranging, and will sometimes surprise you.

Whatever peaks a youngster's interest, there's probably a great nonfinction book for young people about it, and they are highly likely to get hours of enjoyment from anything that provides plenty of solid information on their favorite subject.


DO consider including some volumes rated "for young adults" in your child's special area of interest. It may be that a book covering an area that a 10 year old is already quite familiar with (as they would be if they've been interested in the topic for a while) would be right for them, even if it's recommended for a slightly older age group.

They'll use them now, and enjoy growing into more in depth use of them as they grow.

History Especially for Kids - Help them Understand the Present by Learning from the Past

Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever
Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

Ages 10 and up.

Like the adult version by the same author, it's a best seller list, and with good reason. Even kids who aren't particularly interested in history are being drawn in by this recent offering. Be sure and look for "Kennedy's Last Days," by the same author, too.


Reference Books on Special Topics - What REALLY Interests Your Child?

The subject matter that most intrigues YOUR nine to twelve year old may not even be listed here. But, here are some typical ones.

Whatever it is that really interests your child, it will be something they will want to read about.

Not sure where to start? Then, start by listening. What kinds of questions is he or she asking? When they initiate a conversation, what is it about? Have they asked to join a particular club or activity group?

When a certain subject comes up among adults, do they stop what they are doing and listen closely?

The answers to those questions will tell you what topics to look for.

Time for Kids: Big Book of Why - 1,001 Facts Kids Want to Know (TIME for Kids Big Books)
Time for Kids: Big Book of Why - 1,001 Facts Kids Want to Know (TIME for Kids Big Books)

One of today's most popular nonfiction books for eight to twelve year olds. It answers just the kinds of questions they ask and gives lots of information on the types of things kids wonder about. They may not even realize that, as they find these answers they may also be gaining knowledge in science, history, or some other broad topic.

Sea Turtle Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series)
Sea Turtle Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series)

If you haven't discovered the Scientest in the Field series you, you should. This particular volume focuses on the work of "the turtle lady." Her name is Dr. Stewart, and her field of expertise is Leatherback Sea Turtles, and she works in St. Kitts, in the Caribbean. Kids (and adults) will learn about a lot more than turtles in this interesting book.

Youngsters enjoy finding answers to their questions in books of their own
Youngsters enjoy finding answers to their questions in books of their own | Source

Kids Love Special Interest Books

Kids this age are developing interests in a broad range of topics. For some, it may be something in the field of science. For others, maybe there's a fascination with arts, architecture, or even famous people from history.

Whatever their field of interest, one thing they want is answers to their question. They also like good, solid information about their favorite topic.

The information that appeals to them is everything from fascinating little tidbits, to a little bit more expertise on the topic than some of their peers might have.

Once acquired, they love to show off those tidbits and that expertise. They'll proudly say things like

  • Did you know that Madagascar is the only place in the world where lemurs live?


  • I've been reading a lot about the space shuttles. What would you like to know?

Transportation: A Pictorial History of the Past One Thousand Years (Millennium)
Transportation: A Pictorial History of the Past One Thousand Years (Millennium)

A special interest non fiction topic that will be especially appealing to boys.

Science in Seconds for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less
Science in Seconds for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less

For ages 8 and older

Make science hands on and fun, and it's no longer boring. We sure need our kids to get a better grasp of science than some of them are getting today. Making it enjoyable will go a long way towards creating a real desire to learn more.


Tweens Love to Lounge Around

With a Good Book!

Pre-teens and teenagers truly value their own space. Making an attractive and comfortable place for reading a part of their own space is a great way to reinforce with them how valuable reading and learning is FOR them.


Ideas for A Special Reading Area - Give Them Their Own Comfy Reading Space

Here are some iideas for cool stuff to consider putting in your pre-teen's special reading and / or study space.

heir OWN shelves for their OWN books is something they will appreciate, too. Make sure their reading space is in an area with decent lighting A nice additional touch would be an artistic, hip, cute, funny, or snazy reading poster.

Something really comfy quirky will have a lot of appeal to kids this age. They are at an age where they are really valuing their individuality. Sometimes expressing themselves in an uncommon way goes right along with that. A seating area that provides something other than a plain old chair will go right along with that attitude.

Big Joe Roma Chair, Zebra
Big Joe Roma Chair, Zebra

Girls love to be in style, and zebra prints are one of the in things now.

Big Joe Soccer Bean Bag with Smart Max Fabric
Big Joe Soccer Bean Bag with Smart Max Fabric

What tween guy wouldn't like this soccer beanbag chair?


Is a Special Reading or Study Area a Good Idea?

Do you like the idea of a dedicated reading and / or study area for a nine ti twelve year old? Do you think it will improve their study habits or help them to enjoy leisure reading more?

What do you think of providing a special reading ro study area for a kids in this age group?

See results

Weather Projects for Young Scientists: - Experiments and Science Fair Ideas

Explore the weather - from everyday weather to severe weather events - with over 40 fascinating weather projects!

Learn how to build your own anemometer, thermometer, barometer, and other meteorological instruments. Read about real life meteorologists, and what they do. Learn facts about storms and other weather phenomena.

Weather for Youngsters

Meteorology is Fascinating!

Meteorology is a great topic for young people to sink their teeth into. After all, it's not something far away that they've never seen. The weather surrounds them day in and day out. Learning how it works can be a fascinating undertaking.

Do you know a weather kid who wants to know all about the weather? How does the wind blow, why does it rain, and where do hurricanes come from? Here's a whole dedicated to Kids Books about Weather

What do you think of the ideas on this page? Do you have (or know) a youngster who would love to get something on this page as a gift?

Maybe you'd share your favorite reference work for nine to twelve year olds.

The Guestbook Is: OPEN

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I think this is such an important age to encourge reading. Of course, the earlier the better

    • Digory LM profile image

      Digory LM 

      6 years ago

      I think you have some great ideas here. If kids (especially boys) are not into reading by the time they are twelve, it is going to be much more difficult later on.

    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      @TonyPayne: It sure is.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      7 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Useful information. My daughters have a place to study, it's important to have somewhere away from the tv etc to get their homework done.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the link to the book of idioms - I think my whole family will enjoy that one! I would love if you checked out my book lens: Nature and Earth-Friendly Books for All Ages . Take care!

    • Mamaboo LM profile image

      Mamaboo LM 

      7 years ago

      My 9 year old loves to read...We call her a carnivore of books...Thanks for more Suggestions.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love your ideas here and nonfiction books for kids is an absolute winner. Kids who have their own reference books are more likely to just pick them up for some spontaneous learning as well as using them for their studies. I'm for anything that encourages literacy, it just cannot be overdone!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There are few things as important as giving kids a love for reading. Reading opens worlds for them and makes then think - and dream. Few things are as important.


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