Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: 16 Can’t Miss Read-Alouds #nfpb2015

nonfiction picture book challenge 2015

I’ve always read a lot of nonfiction aloud to my son: it’s one of my main strategies for teaching him about the world and helping him grow into a person full of wonder and curiosity. Nonfiction picture books are one of my favorite genres, and my own reading life is fairly balanced between fiction and nonfiction. (More fiction than nonfiction, but for me, that’s still balanced.) But although I recommend a lot of nonfiction in my Children’s Literature classes, I realized recently that I don’t read aloud nearly as many nonfiction titles to my students as I do fiction titles. In fact, in three weeks of #classroombookaday, there have been no nonfiction titles! How is that possible?

This post shares a list of 16 of my favorite can’t-miss nonfiction picture book read-alouds. It’s part of a series of lists I’ve been making of nonfiction picture books. You can check out the Starter Kit for Teachers New to Nonfiction, the Mentor Texts to Teach Craft, Style, and Voice and the list of 20 titles for upper elementary. With this list, I hope to remind myself to incorporate more nonfiction in my own classroom read-alouds as I revisit some tried-and-true favorites.

Not all nonfiction picture books read well aloud, and that’s not necessarily a knock against their quality. Some great nonfiction titles haven’t been rip-roaring successes as read-alouds with my son (The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings are two recent favorites of mine that come to mind).

There are many reasons why a quality nonfiction picture book might fall a bit flat as a read-aloud. What works visually doesn’t always work aurally. Sometimes there is too much information for easy auditory processing. Sometimes the different text features (multiple different fonts presenting multiple different types of information) make reading aloud challenging. Sometimes abstract concepts that might be clear upon careful review of an illustration or diagram are never made concrete enough for listening readers. And sometimes it’s just a mismatch between book and audience.

For me, a great read-aloud appeals to a wide range of audiences. I’ve shared the books on this list with young children, with my seventh-grade son who is a struggling reader, and with several different groups of college students. A great nonfiction read-aloud inspires wonder and compels further learning and discovery. Most of all, perhaps, it prompts conversation.
a boy and a jaguartrombone shortybig red kangaroodave the pottera nest is noisy

boy who loved mathburied sunlightroberto clementecase for lovingivan remarkable true story

who says women cant be doctors

sit inparrots over puerto ricopiano starts heretuesday tucks me in

Be sure to check out Carrie Gelson’s list of Beginning Read Alouds and Alyson Beecher’s suggestions for reading nonfiction books aloud in the classroom and her list of favorite science-themed read-alouds.





17 responses to “Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: 16 Can’t Miss Read-Alouds #nfpb2015”

  1. Michele Avatar

    I’m sharing read alouds at our staff meeting after school, I’ll be sure to reference your post today!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you for sharing it! I love making these lists. I’m having a problem stopping, in fact!

  2. carriegelson Avatar

    I can attest to the read aloud power of some of these titles. The ones new to me are going on my TBR list!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So glad you discovered something new here! And I am sharing some nonfiction tomorrow in all of my classes so my post has done part of its job anyway.

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    Because all students study individually chosen topics, n-f picture books are so helpful to them in all the ages k-8, but I also read aloud some titles as mentor texts to show how they can report their own research. Thanks for the list. There are some new to me and I’ll look for them, especially to read to the granddaughters, already loving learning about “new” things.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So wonderful to share these titles with curious children. Lots of ways to build wonder and promote inquiry here. I will be sure to incorporate NF PBs next time I teach composition as research mentor texts.

  4. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    So many excellent titles – some of these are new to me, I’ll have to see if I can find them. I have a soft spot for picture book biographies – the images can really help kids relate to people from very different eras and cultures.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love PB bios too–I had to force myself to add a variety of titles to this list because I mostly wanted to do bios!

  5. Earl @ The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer Avatar

    Big Red Kangaroo looks awesome. Must look for it. Catia Chien stopped by the store and it was exciting because the book she illustrated was really so good.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Love Emu even more, I think, by same author-illustrator team, but I featured it on another list and I was really going for diversity of titles on my lists, trying not to repeat any.

  6. Gigi McAllister Avatar

    Hi Elisabeth. This is a wonderful list! I see some familiar faves and some new books to check out! Thank you!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Glad you found some faves and new titles! It was a fun list to put together.

  7. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    This is a fabulous list. A Boy and a Jaguar and Trombone Shorty are two of our favorites

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Trombone Shorty is one of my new faves–I could use it for just about everything, I think. And I love Boy and Jaguar more each time I read it!

  8. alybee930 Avatar

    If I had included biographies we would have had several books overlapping. Love this post and this series. Great job! Will share with teachers.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks so much! I am so obsessed with PB bios! I do love seeing the diversity on these lists and how even though many of us have so many overlapping reading interests, favorite authors, favorite illustrators, etc., there is still little overlap in our lists. Really speaks to the richness of this field.

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