Nonfiction picture books are great for two reasons: They appeal to otherwise reluctant readers and make learning fun. This is a list of enjoyable, read-aloud friendly books that covers a wide variety of topics.
A Is for Aloha: A Hawaii Alphabet by U‘ilani Goldsberry
This local favorite is a brightly-colored book with Hawaii-themed words for each letter of the alphabet. Beyond the four-lined rhyme for each word, each is accompanied with a lengthier paragraphs of facts and an additional word (ex. G is for state gem, and also for Hawaiian green sea turtle).
Go, Go America by Dan Yaccarino
In this busy picture book, each state gets a page or two full of random facts kids will be fascinated by. While it’s not a traditional read aloud, parents and keiki will have fun flipping to different states and learning new things about each.
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
This classic pairs fun cut-paper illustrations with intriguing facts about animals that kids will love to repeat. Keiki and grown-ups get to guess the animals associated with parts, and then learn about each part and animal. For example, did you know that hippos close their ears underwater? Caldecott Honor Book
Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember by Steve Jenkins
Apparently, we love Steve Jenkins. This animal fact book again pairs his fun cut-paper art with facts about surprisingly dangerous animals sure to intrigue risk-takers everywhere. What’s great about both Jenkins books is that they lead keiki to explore more nonfiction picture books about each animal (the library’s full of ’em!).
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
This visually stunning and emotionally moving picture book tells the true story of a Kenyan student studying at a college in the U.S. who returns to his village with the news of the September 11 attacks. In response, the Maasai people offer a selfless gesture – the gift of 14 cows.
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
This book merges exciting Wild-West lingo with historical facts and the engaging tale of the most successful, and first African-American, deputy U.S. marshal. A lengthy read, this story is good for an older audience intrigued by sharpshooting and heroism. Laid out on paper that looks like parchment and accompanied by boldly-brushed illustrations, the book also has a glossary, time line, suggestions for further reading, and additional facts. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award (9-12)
Who Built the Pyramid? By Meredith Hooper
This striking desert-colored picture book introduces children to the different aspects of building a pyramid, as told by each participant. Through repetition, characters from the king himself to the water carrier explain why it was they who built the pyramid tomb of Senwosret. Bonus: The simple storyline is followed up by pages of real pictures and in-depth facts.
Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest
For each letter of the alphabet, this story provides a different aspect of a firefighter’s job, be it work, gear, or fire-fighting technique. Accompanied by bold, realistic illustrations. At the beginning and end of the picture book, gear is diagrammed and more complex terms are explained. (4-8)
If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty
This story puts children directly into the spaceship, telling them what they would see, feel and think on a trip to the moon. Facts are interspersed through this fun, though slightly long-winded narrative accompanied by engaging illustrations. Perfect when you have the time to ask keiki to relax, close their eyes, and imagine themselves behind that dashboard. A good intro for learning about space travel.
How Weird Is It? A Freaky Book All About Strangeness by Ben Hillman
This book? It’s pretty freaky. Strangely manipulated photos accompany a collection of amusingly-written factual blurbs that are just plain bizarre – and extremely fascinating. Not a typical read aloud, but perfect for adults and kids intrigued by the strange, gross, and fascinating to flip through together, or for quick read alouds with a group of kids. (9-12)
I Wonder Why Planes Have Wings and Other Questions About Transportation by Christopher Maynard
This book is a rich collection of illustrations and facts especially great for children who love all things mechanical. With pages full of blurbs about different types of transportation, it’s perfect to fill both little bits of time or more extended periods flipping through the pages.
This list is just the beginning. Take your keiki to the library and check out the nonfiction section to follow up on some facts found in these books; or, visit selections of topics they love, from tractors to ballet. Also, consider children’s magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids or Kids Discover.