Raise your hand if you forget to read information books at storytime.
It’s true. It’s not that I don’t want to read information books at storytime. I think it’s mostly that I’m more aware of fiction and thus more likely to try it out in storytime. But I would really like to change that. Not only would reading information books in storytime raise awareness about that part of our collection, it also caters to kids who like facts. So I’ve done some digging and gathered resources for all of us who would like to be more intentional about including nonfiction books in storytime.
Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge that some books blur the line between fiction and nonfiction. Just checking a book in two different library catalogues will often give two different results. Nonfiction Monday had a recent blog post with some examples. Some of the books listed here may be catalogued as children’s fiction in your system. Cross checking these one with your library’s holdings is a great way to get to know your library collection better.
Let’s start with other people who have shared their wisdom on this topic. Check out these webinars and blog posts:
- Informational Books for Storytime Webinar by Infopeople
- 2018 Year in Review: Nonfiction by Storytime in the Stacks
- Ask a Storytime Ninja: Non-fiction by Storytime Underground
- Non-Fiction in Preschool Storytime by MCLS Kids
- Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Nonfiction at Storytime by So Tomorrow
- Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Poetry at Storytime by So Tomorrow
- Mad About Science: STEM Books to Use in Your Programs by Abby the Librarian
- All Things STEAM by The Show Me Librarian (many of Amy’s preschool programs feature books that connect to the theme)
Authors and Series
It’s helpful to know key authors and series that have multiple information books that work well in storytime. Here are some of my favourites:
- April Pulley Sayre
- Shelley Rotner
- Bob Barner
- Gail Gibbons
- Steve Jenkins
- Jim Arnosky
- Darrin Lunde
- Anne Rockwell
- Pebble Plus series
- Bullfrog Books series
And here are some of my favourite nonfiction books to use in storytime. I’ve given ideas for books you could pair them with if you wanted to stick to a theme.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
The super large format makes this a great choice for large groups. Have kids come up and put their hand next to the animal on the page so they can compare. With only 1 -2 short sentences per page this one works great for toddlers and preschoolers. Pairs great with From Head to Toe by Eric Carle where you can act out animals of sizes.
All Kinds of Friends by Shelley Rotner; photographs by Sheila M. Kelly
I love the big photograph spreads and the short amount of text. Perfect for babies and toddlers alike. A true celebration of friendship. There are so many great options to read along with this one if you want to stick with a friendship theme.
Baby Animals Moving by Suzi Eszterhas
This one is a little text heavy so recommended for smaller preschool groups up to grade 2. Surveys a variety of animals and how they get around in the natural world. The wildlife photographs are the star. Don’t miss the author’s second book Baby Animals Playing.
Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young by Marianne Berkes; illustrated by Cathy Morrison
Inquisitive preschoolers will love learning about how different animals keep their babies safe. I like how each spread focuses on one animal so you can spend time discussing it or quickly move on to the next. If you have a small group it would be fun to pass out stuffed animals or puppets after reading and have the kids practice carrying their “babies.” I’d pair this with a lively book like The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz.
Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer; illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
A short and sweet journey through the circle of life in the forest. Good for small groups due to the size of the book. Read it with toddlers and label each object; read it with preschoolers and help them make connections between the objects. Pair with a fall themed book like The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri to see how animals fit in the ecosystem.
Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre
Sayre is a master of nature photography and lyrical writing that feels like poetry. I love reading her books at the start or end of seasons. Don’t miss Raindrops Roll and Full of Fall for autumn and her upcoming Bloom Boom in 2019. For another snow-filled story read Snowballs by Lois Ehlert and make some snow people.
Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins; illustrated by Richard Jones
Yes, it’s about birds but it’s also about forces! Follow Bird as she pushes and pulls things in nature to build a nest. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. If you focus on the concept of building try Bigger Bigger by Leslie Patricelli too.
Birds Make Nests by Michael Garland
Someone once told me, “The world would be a better place if everyone was a bird watcher.” This book helps fulfill that wish. Simple sentences show a variety of nests. Each bird is labeled so you can give specific names if the kids have the attention span. Any bird themed book would pair well, and I’d definitely use my Two Little Bluebirds rhyme.
Bubbles: An Elephant’s Story by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle
I sent this book in with my niece’s Grade 2 class and they loved it as a read aloud. It’s narrative nonfiction, telling the story of Bubbles and how he was saved from ivory poachers. I think Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown ties in nicely with the message around the hope of animals being able to live freely in the wild.
Counting on Fall by Lizann Flatt; illustrated by Ashley Barron
Part of a Math in Nature series that goes through the four seasons, this book has a counting challenge on each page. Best for preschoolers – Grade 1. The spring and winter books are more challenging, so I’d stick with this one for an under 5 storytime. I encourage caregivers to take the book home so they can spend more time on each page. I’d pair with something lighthearted such as Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall.
Different? Same! by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Pippa Curnick
This one is so clever! Each spread shows four animals and the kids have to guess how they are similar. Perfect for preschool groups who can’t read yet (the answer is written on the page). Really stretches the kids to think creatively.
Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater; illustrations by Dylan Metrano
Perfect for toddlers, this book describes one bird per page in a simple sentence. The illustrations are bright and colourful. For a funny tale featuring an assortment of feathered friends use Froodle by Antoinette Portis.
Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins; illustrated by Tim Hopgood
A wonderful introduction to our amphibian friends. This one works well with preschool – grade 3. I admit Darwin’s Frog kind of grossed me out but still cool to learn about! Bust out Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems after reading this one.
Families by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
Diverse families are photographed and featured in this text that describes what different families look like and how families interact. Great for toddlers and up. I love reading with one of Todd Parr’s books about families.
Fantastic Flowers by Susan Stockdale
I love the use of metaphor in this flower book. Try asking the kids what they think each flower looks like. Perfect for springtime when flowers are blooming so you can encourage families to spend time comparing what they find outside. Pairs perfectly with Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.
A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton
One of my co-workers starts every storytime with a poem which I think is a lovely idea. Living right on the ocean, I’m drawn to this collection about the sea. The pages are large and the poems are filled with unique vocabulary. A beautiful start to an under the sea storytime.
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell; illustrated by Bob Shea
An animal guessing game that uses the poetic form of haiku. Works great with preschoolers who will feel proud when they know the answers. A great way to show caregivers how fun poetry can be! Pair with another guessing game like I Spy With My Little Eye by Edward Gibbs.
I Am the Rain by John Paterson
A poetic take on the water cycle and all the ways water exists in the world. I like it for the short text that allows you to add in more detailed explanations as you read with preschoolers. The book is written from the point of view of water which is also unique. Pair with a rain-filled story such as A Good Day for Ducks by Jane Whittingham.
I’ve Got Eyes: Exceptional Eyes of the Animal World by Julie Murphy; illustrated by Hannah Tolson
From my 2018 list, this one is perfectly illustrated for large groups. For older groups read the complete text, with toddlers read the first sentence on each page and label the animal. Pair with a fun body part book like We’ve All Got Bellybuttons by David Martin; illustrated by Randy Cecil. And don’t miss Murphy’s companion book I’ve Got Feet: Fantastical Feet of the Animal World.
Life-Size Farm by Teruyuki Komiya
Similar to Actual Size listed above, this book lets kids see farm animals up close and personal. There’s two more in the series Life-Size Zoo and Life-Size Aquarium. Great for big groups. Pair with any farm animal story of your choice.
Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Longer rhyming text makes this a good choice for preschool – Grade 2. Discover all the burrows and nooks animals carve out for their babies. Storytime Katie has lots of other ideas for houses and homes themed storytime.
Mice Mischief: Math Facts in Action by Caroline Stills; illustrated by Judith Rossell
Follow Mice on their silly adventures as you figure out different ways to add numbers to equal ten. The text is very simple. You can have kids use their fingers to count on each page. It pairs great with Balance the Birds by Susie Ghahremani which also deals with number combinations to figure out balance.
Neighbors: The Yard Critters by George Held; illustrated by Joung Un Kim
Another storytime poetry read aloud win. Bright, large pages feature poems about all the little critters we find outside. Try reading one of the poems during a bugs and insects storytime. Don’t miss the others in this series: The Yard Critters Too and The Water Critters.
Once Upon a Jungle by Laura Knowles; illustrated by James Boast
Follow the life cycle as you venture deeper into the jungle. I love the way the illustrations pop off the page due to the dark background. The repetitive phrase “Once upon a…” is a great for toddlers and the text is brief. Preschoolers will engage more with what happens to each animal and how it contributes to the ecosystem. I think this one works great with The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner; illustrated by Jonathan Lambert which also features wild animals and what they eat.
Roar: A Dinosaur Tour by Michael Paul
A simple introduction to dinosaurs that is perfect for babies and toddlers. The pages are big and bright, the sentences simple. Go the extra step by learning how to pronounce each of the labeled dinosaurs to wow your crows. I love the end pages with include a phonetic spelling guide. Choose your favourite dinosaur book to read with it.
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner; pictures by Sheila M. Kelly
I’ve done a series of blog posts on the importance of talking to kids about race from a young age. They are naturally inquisitive. This book introduces the concept of race and ethnicity and encourages us to celebrate all skin colours. Any of the books on All About Me theme would pair well.
Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley
A simple depiction of the range of emotions “tough guys” experience. The text is straightforward and short, making it suitable for toddlers and preschoolers. Pause on each page to identify the emotions of each character. A wonderful example of how feelings know no gender. I’d pair with my new favourite board book Why the Face? by Jean Jullien.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney
Don’t forget fairy tales are catalogued as nonfiction! From my 2017 list comes this classic tale retold by a master storyteller. Try doing it as a felt story or puppet story the following weeks to practice telling stories in many ways.
Water is Water by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Jason Chin
This one has spare text and lends itself well to discussion as you follow two kids through the water cycle. Also a great everyday diversity title. Read more about the physical properties of water in Wet by Carey Sookocheff.
Where Will I Live? by Rosemary McCarney
Written as a series of questions a child asks about where they will live after being displaced. A serious topic and the photographs don’t shy away from showing sadness and worry. A great choice for fostering empathy. I think the diverse version of Little Mouse shared by Storytime in the Stacks further illustrated the places people call home.
Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White; illustrated by Robin Page
From my 2018 list, this one teaches the concept of colour with an amazing variety of animals. Go the colour route with another storytime pick or go the food route or stick with a book about wild animals.
Who Has These Feet? by Laura Hulbert; illustrated by Erik Brooks
I love me a guessing game book. The repetition of the question is great for toddlers and preschoolers will love to correctly identify the animals. An all-star choice. Definitely don’t miss the companion book Who Has This Tail? Goes perfectly with Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig; illustrated by Marc Brown.
Whose House Is This? A Look at Animal Homes – Webs, Nests, and Shells by Elizabeth Gregoire; illustrated by Derrick Alderman and Denise Shea
A question and answer book that explains the purpose behind each creature’s home. I love the repetitive nature of the question and the rhythmic language. Great for preschoolers who are learning about the creatures around them.
Whose Poop is That? by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Kelsey Oseid
Look if it has poop in the title you know your under 5 crowd will love it. Skip the longer facts if you got a high energy group and just identify each turd pile. I encourage caregivers to take the book home to scour the details. I think Dinosaur vs. the Potty by Bob Shea is a perfect match with this topic.