Poor Neglected Nonfiction


 I am the lucky mom of two adorable kids, Alex and Megan.  Note their adorableness:
     Alex and Megan both have their special, unique qualities- their quirks.  Alex loves superheroes and stories.  He will take whatever objects are near him and turn them into a team of bad-guy-fighting crayons! I love the dialogue he creates for his toys as he makes up scenes and stories for them to play out.  Megan, a month away from turning 2, amazes me with her vocabulary and her empathy.  She asks me often, "You happy, Mommy?" especially after she does something that most assuredly has NOT made me happy (colored on the wall, flung her pastina, pressed every button on the remote...).  She then will pat my cheek, look at me with her big blue eyes and say, "Be happy, Mommy!" This morning, when I told her we had to wake up Alex, she told me, "It's too dangerous!" Did I mention she isn't even two? They are both my loves, both different and similar in ways.  I could never pick one over the other as my "favorite"- it would be like trying to choose what is more beautiful, a sunrise or a sunset.  Simply put, there is no choice- they are both spectacular.

     In the world of teaching and reading, I haven't been as diplomatic with my fiction and nonfiction books.  Clearly, favorites have been played and nonfiction has gotten the raw end of the deal.  When I first heard about this challenge, I thought, "Sure! I have tons of favorite books.  Picking 10 will be a cinch!" But then, I thought about my favorite nonfiction books and got a little nervous.  I could only come up with 5.  Yikes.  How is that possible? 

     I'm a lot like my son Alex in that I really like a good story, which is why I have loved fiction so much and grudgingly admit that most of my read alouds have been fiction.  Not to make excuses, but I taught kindergarten for the last ten years before switching this year to third grade.  Most of the nonfiction I read to my kindergarten students was in the form of simple big books, with one or two sentences on the page, used for shared reading.  Not exactly riveting page-turners.  A few of my favorite titles here I did share with my kindergarten class but by and large, I read them my most treasured fiction stories. Now that I teach third grade and my students can handle longer and more complex texts, I am realizing I need to start showing nonfiction a lot more love and flourishing more attention on this important and surprisingly (to me) entertaining genre.  

     I cannot wait to read about the books posted in this challenge and I have my notebook ready to write down all the new titles I need to read and share with my students.  For this blog, I will share my top 5 nonfiction books. Then I will share my top 5 nonfiction books to be read...books I haven't read to students yet but will before this year is through. I promise next year to easily have ten new favorites to share!

My Top 5 Nonfiction Books 
(Ones I've read aloud)

Chickens Aren't the Only Ones by Ruth Heller: This book explores all the different animals that are oviparous (hint- lay eggs) in a rhyming format.  I've used this book to launch a unit on animals that lay eggs and there is a great poem called "Eggs!" by Meish Goldish that I use in conjunction with this book.  I would have students make a flipbook with an egg on the front and a different oviparous animal underneath.  This book is near and dear to my teaching heart.  

So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George: I just read this book with my class last week as we discussed Presidents Day.  This book is so much fun and makes the former U.S. Presidents really relatable to kids and has fun facts about life in the White House.  The last few pages are really inspiring and conjure up feelings of patriotism and love of country.  This books is features on Bookflix also and plays like a movie.  I highly recommend reading it with your future presidents.  

Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham: This one I read in kindergarten and third grade.  It is narrative nonfiction about the birth and life of a penguin chick.  There are so many interesting facts about how these penguins survive their icy habitats and how a penguin chick develops, yet it reads like a story.  The illustrations are fabulous as well.  This book fit well in our unit about animal adaptations, as well as our study of narrative nonfiction. 

My Map Book by Sara Fanelli: This brightly colored book features all different types of maps including the map of my heart, map of my dog, map of my face, etc.  I used this in kindergarten, mostly to feature the map of my heart as a way to kick off their own writing and connecting their writing to people and places they love.  Now as I look at this book, I am envisioning new possibilities for third grade.  Synthesizing all the maps in the book, you can make some inferences about the person who created all these maps.  Students can pick something in their own lives to map, using this book for ideas and inspiration.  

Are You a Spider? By Judie Allen and Tudor Humphries: In kindergarten, kids loved this book and would laugh at the questions.  This book presents many facts about spiders but does so in a way that you are laughing and thinking to yourself, "What if I WERE a spider?!"  I haven't read it to my third graders yet but I plan on reading it to them soon!

5 More Nonfiction Books I Promise to Read!

Nonfiction, I promise from this day forward to recognize that you have a lot to offer both me and my students.  I promise to stop playing favorites with fiction and recognize that there is no need to pick between you: Both fiction and nonfiction can be incredible reading experiences and while I'm sad it took me so long to realize this, my eyes are open now.  Bring on the nonfiction titles! 


  1. I noted all your favorites, only know My Map Book, which is good! In your 'to read' pile, don't miss Ivan & Eat Like A Bear. I've used Eat Like A Bear for various lessons in the younger grades (I was the lit coach until taking over a classroom in November). It's just great! Thanks for all, Kathleen. Loved hearing about your wonderful kids!

    1. Hi Linda! Thank you! I am reading The One and Only Ivan to my class right now and I am excited to share the nonfiction book with them when we finish. I am hoping my school library has some of these great titles, especially Eat Like a Bear! I am going to make a big list of books for the librarian to order and I will order some myself too!

  2. I really like this post Kathleen! I use These Backyard books a lot in my primary classroom. Happy nonfiction reading! Your kids are adorable by the way!

    1. Hi Carrie! Thanks for the great nonfiction resources you shared with me. I will check out These Backyard books too! Do you have your students keep nonfiction titles and fiction titles in their book baggies at the same time?

  3. Kathleen,
    I enjoyed reading about your children. I had to smile as you said, "It would be like trying to choose what is more beautiful, a sunrise or a sunset." I hope you've read, I Love You the Purplest. I think it speaks perfectly to your narrative. (Oops, that was a fiction suggestion...lol.)

    Like you, I find the nonfiction challenge much harder than the fiction challenge. It is one of the reasons I love the nonfiction challenge, as I learn so much from reading everyone's posts. You have some great titles here. Thank you for reminding me about Eat Like a Bear.

    I'm glad you could join the fun this year.

    1. Hi Cathy! Thanks so much for organizing such an amazing event. I am thrilled to be part of it this year, although I wasn't sure if I "did it right." Jumped in anyway! I will check out I Love You the Purplest (sounds perfect) and I have created a list of all the amazing new books I need to investigate. Thanks again!

  4. I'm so happy you could join us today and share your honest story while declaring to use nonfiction more. My Map Book is one of my very favorites, I'm so glad you have it on your list for others to see.

    1. Hi Mandy! Thanks to you and Cathy for organizing/hosting this event. I have loved reading all the nonfiction book recommendations and love how everyone had a theme for their list (I missed that! Oops!). Is the next event in the summer? Are there any weekly follow ups where people post more book ideas? I've been really enjoying this new community I found! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing your story and celebrating NF. My Map Book is an all time favorite. Confession time -my list had 2 titles that were not officially pb -but had to include them.
    Thrilled to see all of the lists. Thanks again.

  6. I am often guilty of favoring fiction as well, but when I look at these fabulous lists, I know that There is so much to offer our students. I must get Eat Like a Bear, as one of my students used that imagery in a recent poem.


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