Most people don’t appreciate the wonderful world of children’s nonfiction books.
Here are some of my favorites:
Loreen Leedy’s books cover everything from math facts to going to the dentist and all feature bold, engaging artwork. These are best for kids ages 4-8.
Seymour Simon’s books, written on a variety of science topics, feature huge, luscious photographs. The pictures can be enjoyed by a four year old; the text is best for ages 6-9. I particularly appreciate the specificity of each book: instead of cramming the entire solar system into one book, he has a separate title for each planet.
Yes, the TV show was annoying. Yes, the art leaves quite a bit to be desired. But my children have learned a frightening amount of science from the Magic School Bus books. These are great for kids ages 3-7. Hint: the square books have much less detail than the rectangular books.
Nonfiction read-alouds are not common, but your children ages 5-9 will enjoy hearing The Story of the World, which covers history chronologically in four volumes.
Roy Gerrard’s books may be hard to find, but their charmingly quirky art and unusual topics (Sir Francis Drake, fictionalized Roman slave children) make these a delightful introduction to historical topics for young (ages 4-8) children.
The DK Eyewitness books are fairly described as ‘a museum in a book.’ The detailed, lavish illustrations make these books a delightful choice for the entire family: my three-year-old would study the pictures and I’d occasionally find my husband flipping through one.
A Street Through Time is my all-time single favorite children’s book: it features a fictionalized street in Europe, shown at each major stage from early farmers through the late twnetieth century. Children ages 5 and up and adults will love this book.
An excellent series with a broad array of science titles for the 3-7 year old set is Let’s Read and Find Out. Because these books have been written over a thirty year (or so) period, some are very modern (and, occasionally, a little too politically correct on environmental issues) and others have quaint 70′s-style artwork.
The MathStart books do for math what the Let’s Read and Find Out books do for science. These books would be especially useful for children struggling to understand math concepts, but all children would enjoy their bright colors and catchy stories.
The Time Traveling Twins books get high marks for their ability to take on difficult historical issues in a way that is meaningful to young children (such as the controversy over Thanksgiving and Native Americans) while still presenting a lively, colorful story that will engage young readers.
The matriarch of children’s nonfiction picture books is Gail Gibbons. She has books on everything from apples to Valentine’s Day to knights to owls to, well, just about everything else. These books are fabulous for the 3-7 year old set.
Demi’s books feature unique artwork that will make adults drool. In addition to titles on some less-well-known fairy tales, he writes amazing biographies of people such as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Muhamad, and Jesus.
David Macauley’s books on architecture should not be missed.
Arnold Lobel is best known for the Frog and Toad books, but his charming On the day Peter Stuyvesant sailed into town should not be missed, even though it is out of print.
The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library occasionally sacrifices depth for rhyme, but the familiar color and rhythm of Dr. Seuss more than makes up for that in this series of science titles aimed at the very youngest children.
Another excellent science series is Sam’s Science, which reaches surprising depth and complexity while still being readable and interesting for young children.
Most parents will already be familiar with Aliki’s books (some of which are in the Let’s Read and Find Out series), but one that should not be missed is A Medieval Feast.
Another excellent title–focusing on medieval ink making, illuminating manuscripts, and book making, is Marguerite Makes a Book.
Strega Nona may be Tomie dePaola’s best-known work, but he has many nonfiction titles that are worth reading.
This isn’t quite nonfiction, but Marcia Williams has written aseveral comic-book-like (but not quite as edgy) adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and other classic works. My son spent his own money on Tales from Shakespeare and loves it.
Peter Sis’ Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei is beautiful and has just the right amount and level of text for a 5-8 year old.
Please share your favorite children’s nonfiction books in the comments.