Wonder Inducing Nonfiction Read Alouds

It’s funny how one’s focus can change when looking at the classroom library. For a while, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nonfiction titles in my room. Last summer I started to get anxious about whether or not I had enough books in the room that my Grade 2/3s could pick up and read independently. It seemed like my “best” nonfiction titles were books that I needed to read to my students. Which was wonderful because I had some amazing titles to use as we model strategies, but what about when it was independent reading time? Did I have enough titles that students could read by themselves with success? My book shopping focussed on purchasing titles that I knew my students could manage on their own, especially as we built strategies to read nonfiction text over the year. Some of my favourite books that I added?

  • The Discover More Series by Scholastic
  • Nicola Davies Flip the Flap and Find out books which include Who Lives Here? and Who’s Like Me?
  • Laura Hulbert‘s Who Has This Tail? and Who Has These Feet?
  • A huge array of Bobbie Kalman titles
  • The Are you a . . . ? series by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
  • The Amazing Animal Series by Kate Riggs

NonfictionText for Independent Reading There's a Book for That

Now, here I am a year later. Again, thinking about the books in my room . . . What is my focus now? That I want some “Oh, wow!” titles to read aloud. I want to make sure that just as I am reading a variety of picture books and some engaging novels, that I have a real variety of excellent nonfiction picture books to read aloud. Sometimes to model/practice a strategy, sometimes to enhance our learning on a particular subject and sometimes just because, the more we read, the more we know and I want my students to be inspired and curious about learning all year long!

I am fortunate to be looping my Grade 2/3 class into Grade 3/4 and so I have a sense of this group of children, what they wonder about and what I think might inspire them. Last year, I noticed that they were intrigued by stories – folklore, Aboriginal tales, stories from around the world and stories about things that really happened. They were very curious about the stories of people and how these stories connected to us in our classroom. It made me realize that I haven’t been reading enough biographies. I also want to focus on places around the world and the wonder of the world around us. Last year, students loved learning about animals from each continent and had endless questions about habitats.  I know we love art and books and music. So, I have some sense of what kinds of books I need to share.

Knowing how busy school can get and knowing how I sometimes need a one stop shop when I am planning, I decided to take advantage of the time summer has to offer to amass a huge list of amazing nonfiction read alouds. I was looking for titles that my Grade 3/4 class would enjoy. Some are favourites from previous years and some I have yet to read myself. Thank goodness for the wonderful book bloggers out there that I used for inspiration. So here is my list of 25 “wonder inducing” nonfiction read alouds. A reference for me and one that I am sharing here.

The book I plan to use to launch my year: On A Beam of Light- A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky This book made my own thoughts whirl and swirl and race around my head. It has all the perfect themes of wonder, curiousity and thinking outside of the box.

 On a Beam of Light

Based on some picture book biographies I already loved, I grew that list to include:

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant  and illustrated by Melissa Stewart

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Stewart

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon written by Jaqueline Davies illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Biographies - Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet 

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Biographies Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

Some titles to explore amazing places and the world around us:

Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin

The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins

A Rock is Lively written by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

Sea Otter Inlet by Celia Godkin

Fire! by Celia Godkin

Infinity and Me written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Energy Island: How one community harnessed the wind and changed their world by Allan Drummond

The World Around us Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

And to learn about creatures great and small:

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

 And a title to be released this fall:

Is This Panama?: A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill  and illustrated by Soyeon Kim

Is this Panama?

Will I read all of these titles aloud this year? Maybe not. Perhaps interests and passions will take us in different directions. But this list will help keep me on track to make sure I am sharing lots of books that inspire both learning and thinking in my room!

Do you have some other must share nonfiction titles for Grade 3/4 listeners? Would love to hear your suggestions!

I learn so much by reading all of the blog posts that link to the Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday event that KidLit Frenzy hosts. Visit Alyson’s blog to see what books are shared this week.

NFPB2013leaves

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Cheetahs, fast as the wind

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

It must be because cheetahs are the fastest land animal that they are so fascinating and heroes of the animal kingdom. Many times I hear children express that their favourite animal is a cheetah.

As I continue to explore the Amazing Animal series by Kate Riggs, I read Cheetahs (published in 2011). Like the first book in this series (Gorillas) I appreciated the format of this book. Photographs are full page and colourful and the text is a larger, less intimidating size. The end of the book includes an index, websites for further reading and a fun cheetah tale explaining why cheetahs have tear lines.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday There is a Book for that

Some interesting facts?

  • While most cheetahs live in Africa, there are some living in Iran.
  • Male cheetahs hunt together in groups called coalitions and these groups stay together for life.
  • Because it is all about speed. . . how fast are they? They can run up to 70 miles/121 kilometers per hour!

I know this book will be very popular once my students discover this series! It will be a book I frequently recommend as I know it can be read independently by most students in my room.

In our school library I found another nonfiction title on cheetahs: My Life in the Wild – Cheetah (A Life Cycle Book) (published in 2011)part of the Animal Planet series. Written by Meridith Costain and illustrated by Mick Posen.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday There is a Book for that

This book is divided into a narrative illustrated story about a cheetah growing up and back pages full of much more information. The illustrations are so true to life that they are almost kind of creepy – but I’m sure students would just find them very cool. The story is relatively easy to read for young readers and informative enough to hold the attention of little naturalists wanting to learn something new on every page.

“My brothers and I are born. I cannot see my mother yet but I can smell her. I snuggle into her warm tummy, drinking her milk. She licks my wriggly brother clean with her raspy tongue.”

The final pages include a full page glossary, more information and diagrams of other members of the cat family and key facts about cheetahs (scientific name, weight, habitat, etc). There are also four pages of Did you know? facts that accompany each illustration from the story. So, for example, the text above has a picture of a mother cheetah nursing and cleaning her cubs. In the back of the book the Did you know? fact is

“Cheetahs usually give birth to three to five cubs.”

Additional information is included about how the mother makes a nest, when the cubs begin to crawl, when their eyes fully open and how they make sense of the world before this. Other facts focus on how cheetahs hunt, fur markings, and differences between male and female cheetahs.

Other titles in this series that I know would be popular in my class: 

Animal Planet series  Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday There is a Book for that

My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 35/60 complete

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013!

NFPB2013leaves

Anyone have any favourite nonfiction animal series they would like to share?

Non fiction Picture Book Wednesday: Gorillas, the Largest of the Apes

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

What kid doesn’t love learning more about apes? Gorillas are the largest and strongest of the apes and a fascinating topic!

One of my absolute favourite nonfiction titles to introduce children to the great apes is the book Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White (published 2007). Shared in my classroom here. The pictures are gorgeous and the text fascinating. An excellent read aloud for the primary classroom.

ape

A goal I have this year is to fill my classroom with texts that many of my students can manage with independence. Books that will be picked up and read during book choice time or when learning more about a particular animal.  I was so pleased to discover Gorillas by Kate Riggs (published 2012). Here is a book that my Grade 2/3s can read on their own with real success.

gorillas

When my students learn about an animal, they are looking to find answers to some specific questions: How are the babies/young born and raised? What kind of interactions does the animal have with others? How does the animal’s body help it to do things? 

This book – with an almost magazine style format – thin, sleek and full of facts invites the reader in to do a lot of learning. Discover what gorillas eat (lots of wild celery it turns out), how their babies grow and develop and the dynamics of their family groupings. We also learn how these gorillas spend their time – much eating (60 pounds of food a day) and napping (in addition to the 13 to 15 hours of night time sleep). Physical features are described and details of their habitat are outlined.

Features that make this book especially accessible:

  • large full page colourful photographs with relevant captions
  • bold words with definitions at the bottom of the page
  • an index, suggestions for further reading and websites listed at the end of the book

This is a title that I purchased for my class nonfiction collection and I am happy that it was one of four titles in this series that I ordered at the same time. I think this will be a series my students will have a lot of success with! I look forward to reading more of these books by Kate Riggs.

The Amazing Animals titles in my collection:

kateriggs books

My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 33/60 complete 🙂

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013!

NFPB2013leaves

Do you have any favourite nonfiction titles about gorillas?