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
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.
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
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
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
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
And a title to be released this fall:
Is This Panama?: A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim
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.