Raising Readers: 11 Excellent Non-Fiction Books for Kids

Hello, friends!

Today I am honored to have contributed to the Raising Readers series over on Sunlit Pages. For those of you who don't know Sunlit Pages, it is one of my favorite book blogs. I discovered it when Amy followed me on twitter and I clicked through to her blog. It's so inspiring and lovely!

For my contribution to the series, I wrote about what parents need to know about non-fiction: namely that the different types of non-fiction are meant to be read differently. From the post:

It is definitely worth it to help your kids enjoy non-fiction. And it's easier now than ever to get them going on it. Remember when I said you could think of biographies and historical accounts as two kinds of narrative non-fiction? Well there are so many more. There are picture books that tell the story of volcanoes creating islands. There are bird watching guides that have a conversational tone and just really suck you in.

Since I alluded to a couple of my personal favorite non-fiction books, I wanted to name them here. Don't want to leave you all hanging! I hope you love these books as much as I do. Put these on your library list, or click on the cover images to shop through my affiliate links. 

All the books below are narrative non-fiction, for more about the difference between narrative non-fiction, see my guest post.

Picture Books

Locomotive - This one is a-ma-zing. It tells the story of a family riding the transcontinental railroad. You can just tell from the illustrations that Brian Floca rode through these areas, did meticulous research, and has a good sense of humor. When it won the Caldecott I was like, "Um, yeah." I gushed about this one here.

The Boy Who Loved Math - Oh, my heart. I love this book so much. It seems to get better with every reading. It is the biography of mathematician Paul Erdős. I wrote about this one at length here.

Papa Was a Poet - This is a biography of Robert Frost as told from the perspective of his daughter. Something about this book (and it's gorgeous illustrations) has made Frost's poetry so much more meaningful to me. And now that we've moved to New England I catch myself thinking about Robert Frost more and more.

Stripes of All Types - This is a great rhyming book about all kinds of striped animals. Suited for young readers, it's text is pretty spare and the pictures are very eye-catching. In the back of the book, you can read more about each animal.

Volcano Rising - This is the volcano book I was talking about, above! I like how it has larger text and smaller text on each page, so you can just read the big print if you're reading to younger kids, but if the big kids want more info, it's right there.

Look Up - This is the bird watching book I mentioned! I confess that I have not taken up birdwatching after reading this book. But now I think about taking up bird watching. And when I look at birds I see them in more detail. Also, it's just a cool, funny book that really sucks you in! When Levi was four he made me read it to him several times, and it's not a short book!

Longer Books 
(These still have a lot of pictures.)

Anubis Speaks - I think of this as the ultimate companion to Rick Riordan's books, The Kane Chronicles. Obviously, the books have companions of their own, but sometimes you want something from a different author that the same audience will like. In Anubis Speaks, we get taken on a journey through the underworld by Anubis. All kinds of facts are woven into the narrative and it's just a lot of fun and learning, if Egyptian mythology is your scene. Looks like there is a book by the same author about Greek mythology, too.


Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World - The true story of an expedition to the south pole in which (you guessed it!) the ship gets wrecked and the crew stranded and miracles happen and even though it was only 1915 they brought along a photographer. More about this book here.

Skull in the Rock - The amazing true story of a twelve-year-old boy who was out looking for fossils with his paleontologist father and discovered the oldest hominid skull to date. I learned so much from this book and it had awesome photos. It's on my list of recommended books to give at the holidays, and one of my top picks for 13-year-old boys.

One Step at a Time - Just thinking about this book makes me want to read it again. It's the true story of a Vietnamese girl who was adopted by a family in the US. This installment talks about her adjustment to life in the States. Absolutely excellent for developing empathy, in my opinion. I wrote about it here.

Lewis and Clark - For the older crowd, a graphic novel version of the Lewis & Clark expedition. This one opened my eyes to some of the finer points of the journey and what life as an explorer would have been like.

Smile - A memoir of the author's dental and orthodontic work, graphic novel format. I didn't read this one until I was an adult and had already completed my own orthodontic journey (or so I thought! Back in braces now, blah). Anyway, this one is full of humor and heart and is a landmark book in the genre for good reason. My review here.

Bonus Book!

I debated whether or not to include a few non-narrative recommendations on this list, and decided that I really didn't have enough of them that I felt strongly enough about to give them their own section. But then Amy, who hosted the post, said her six-year-old son loves bugs and is into narrative non-fiction. So, here's one especially for the young entomologist.

First Big Book of Bugs - My mom sent us this book a few months ago. Even though she addressed it to my two-year-old daughter, my five-year-old son is the one who is super interested in it. In fact, he asked me to read it to his class. I didn't read all 120+ pages, I can tell you that! More about the reading here. IN general I really like National Geographic's books for kids. They have a solid line called National Geographic Kids that has easy readers that we like. 

Are you looking for non-fiction books on a particular topic or for a particular age? Leave a comment below and I will do my best to hook you up with a good one!


  1. We are always looking for good non fiction. Especially for crazy reader Kolt. I'm about to start "I Am Malala" with him, in fact. We are particularly interested in civil rights, black history, and women's history. Got any good biographies along those lines?

    1. Hmm, biographies? Not off the top of my head. My current favorite civil rights books are the March series of graphic novels written by John Lewis. I didn't originally recognize his name (maybe you do?) but he was a key player, spoke at the March on Washington with Dr. King, is currently a congressman. I liked book one better than book two, but both are good. Third one isn't out yet.

      Ooh! Women AND black history AND civil rights are all contained in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Definitely check that one out. It's sooo goood.

      I reviewed both of these here on Everead. You can search "Colvin" underneath my profile pic and both will come up.

  2. These are great, Alysa! We actually have not checked out that bug book, although we love the other books in that series, so I'm sure we'll love that one too! And I'm excited to read your other recommendations too. We've read a few of them (LOVE Lovomotive) but many of them are new to me! I think I need to give Look Up another chance. I've heard so many people rave about it, but I found it pretty difficult to read aloud because it was so text heavy and had so many speech bubbles. Thanks again for guest posting on my blog!

    1. Thanks, Amy! Oh my goodness Look Up is a _beast_ to read aloud, isn't it? I don't think it's meant as a read aloud at all. That's why I was so astounded that 4-year-old Levi insisted on it, multiple times! If you try Look Up again, just leave it lying about and/or enjoy it on your own. Unless the kids are begging. Haha!


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