List Fun: Read Aloud Non-Fiction

In recent years there has been an upsurge in nonfiction that’s great for reading aloud to preschool and kindergarten-age kids, either one-on-one or in classrooms and storytimes. Here are a few great read-aloud titles that Cybils has taken note of.

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Steawart:  The 2014 Finalist and Winner in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction Category is a great read-aloud. Simple sentences make this perfect for preschoolers while longer chunks of information can be read with older children. There’s a wealth of detail in the illustrations to discuss as well.

How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge:  This 2013 Finalist is sure to be a hit with a dinosaur-loving audience. The size comparisons between dinosaurs and modern objects will initiate great discussions over the concept of comparison.


Eggs 1, 2, 3, Who Will the Babies Be? by Janet Halfmann. This 2012 finalist is perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. Little ones will enjoy identifying the different egg-laying creatures while older listeners will be able to join in the guessing game.

Nic Bishop Snakes. Another 2012 finalist, you might not think to use this as a read-aloud, since it has longer text. However, the vibrant, sometimes startling photographs will hold children spell-bound and the emphasized, bold sentences in the text make abridging it for younger readers simple.


Dolphin Baby by Nicola Davies. 2012 was a great year for read-aloud nonfiction! This finalist reads like a picture book, but smoothly imparts simple facts about a dolphin’s birth and first few years through the text. Older children will enjoy reading additional facts in the captions, while younger ones will adore the friendly dolphins and their daily activities.

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon. This 2011 finalist is a perfect read aloud. Younger children will thrill to the swinging cadence of the text, while older children will be able to engage in a discussion of the water cycle presented through poetry and gorgeous illustrations.

Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith. Another 2011 finalist, the slightly longer text makes this a good fit for older preschool or kindergarten listeners, but the interesting story about how seeds are planting will fascinate a wide range of listeners.

Bring On the Birds by Susan Stockdale. This 2011 finalist is by one of the best authors of nonfiction for the very youngest toddlers. Simple, rhyming sentences and vibrant, bold colors introduce small children to a fascinating array of birds. Older listeners will enjoy learning more about the different birds in the extended information in the back of the book.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins. You wouldn’t expect this 2009 finalist to be a good choice for a read-aloud. It’s a complicated concept with detailed text and illustrations. However, as always, Steve Jenkins comes through. By having the kids stretch at each level and then crouch down, we get the feeling of movement down through the depths of the ocean, get a few wiggles out, and then discuss one or two of the creatures found at that level.

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia. The final book in this list, also a 2009 finalist, is not so much a read-aloud as a spark for discussion. Bring this one out to talk about size and animals, let the kids get up close and personal with the book, and then create your own – how about drawing your handprint on a paper plate and comparing it to a gorilla’s hand, for example?

Check out these great Cybils finalists and winners and add some nonfiction to your read-alouds today!

—Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library