Nifty Nonfiction

Last month, I had the chance to attend the Winter Thinking Strategies Institute hosted by the PEBC {Public Education Business Coalition} in Denver, Colorado.  Let me just say, for this Florida girl, 60˚ is chilly, so when it hit 12˚ with a wind chill and a "feels like" of -7, my body was in shock.  I have never experienced dry skin like that before.  I even used lotion, and I hate lotion!  :)

It was an amazing week and we spent each day studying the comprehension strategies {visualizing, inferring, synthesizing, etc.} in depth.  One of the highlights of that week was my visit to Slavens Elementary School to see the thinking strategies in action in Michelle DuMoulin's first grade math and science classroom.  Mrs. DuMoulin platoons with another first grade teacher; she teaches math and science and her teaching partner teaches reading and language arts.  They plan together and work collaboratively on the thinking strategies, so if the children are learning how readers and writers visualize, for example, then they are simultaneously learning how to use visualization when thinking like mathematicians and scientists, too.  It was a very active and engaging classroom where the children worked in teams to do some really big thinking and make discoveries on their own.  

One section of her room that stood out to me {there were many, actually} was her classroom library.  Since she teaches math and science, she created spaces in her room to honor the work of mathematicians and scientists.  Her student library included an impressive collection of books categorized by content-area topics.

Whether you teach in a departmentalized classroom or a self-contained classroom, increasing the amount of nonfiction texts available to students has become significantly more important, especially with the rise in expectations outlined in the Common Core State Standards.  Her classroom library is a great example of how that might look.  Search yard sales and the Goodwill book store.  Take any book anyone is giving away, even if you don't love it... you can trade it out later as you collect more.  Check your school library and then head out to your local library; maybe even the "local" libraries of the towns nearby.  Not that long ago, nonfiction texts for early primary readers were challenging to find.  Over the past few years, though, vendors like Scholastic have made it their goal to provide rich, high quality titles to young children.  If you teach Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade, you might like some of these... they're among my favorites:

From Pebble Books  {which I ordered through Scholastic}

There's an "Insects" set:

And an "Ocean Animals" set:

Aren't the photographs gorgeous?

They have other sets, too, like this one which includes titles for seeds, flowers, roots, and leaves:

Scholastic also provides books about the human body.  These lower level books are developmentally appropriate for primary readers and include nonfiction text features young children can easily understand and replicate in their own writing.

The "Discovering My World" series includes many topics.  This particular set focuses on winter and animals that live in cold climates.

Pebble Books also publishes smaller books than the ones previously pictured.  These are about the size of a typical guided-reading book... easy for smaller hands to hold.  This set focuses on woodland animals:

This is the "Now I Know" series {another set I purchased from Scholastic}:

These are sample titles from the "Scholastic News" series of nonfiction.  These are a little bit higher... most titles range from guided reading levels H-I... near the end of first grade.

Scholastic also has a series called "Science Vocabulary Readers" and another series called "Science Sight Word Readers."

This is a sample page spread from one of the sight word science readers.  Sight words are highlighted in bold print, but content knowledge isn't compromised like in so many "sight word readers."  The photographs and the nonfiction text features combine nicely with the text to provide engaging content.

National Geographic Kids are great choices for older first graders and second graders.  The reading demands are a little higher with these texts and the kids love them.

I'll share some more in a later post, but what about you?  Do you have nonfiction sets or titles you've collected over the years that your children love?  There are so many beautiful choices out there.  It can be a little challenging to find them for our earliest readers... what have you found?


  1. WOW! What a wonderful and organized library she has. I do have a few of those nonfiction books, that I ordered from Scholastic. I keep all my books in order by their AR levels.

    1. Scholastic is a great resource for nonfiction titles... I agree. They're good quality, but not a budget-buster. Plus, with bonus points, you earn extra for even more books... love it! In our school, many have classroom libraries organized by topic, by genre, by author and/or illustrator, by theme, and by reading level. Students "shop" for books each week and add them to their collections for independent and partner reading throughout the week. :)

  2. I have many of these sets, and my kids love them! Also, thanks for the great pictures of the libraries! How great!

    1. She had a math library, too, but I couldn't find that in my pictures. It was neat... shape books, number books, math poems and riddles, math books by Greg Tang, patterns in nature, etc. :)

  3. Wow, I just came across your blog and I LOVE IT! This is a fabulous post! I teach third grade, and there is a HUGE emphasis on nonfiction text in our Common Core curriculum...I'm trying to build my library to have as many nonfiction titles as I can get my paws on! I think that the more kids are exposed to interesting, non-threatening nonfiction, the better they'll be at seeing it/analyzing it in instruction and during assessments. My students eat up the National Geographic books, and Scholastic offers so many great titles! :)

    1. I'm with you... the kids LOVE nonfiction. I've made it my mission lately to find great titles for the younger elementary kids. For a long time, there just weren't a lot of options for them at their own readability levels, but authors and publishers have really stepped up and are providing so many good choices. :)

  4. I absolutely love the Pebble and Pebble Plus series of books! The kids love them, too. I like the way there is a series of them by theme. But it looks like I need to get some of the "Now I Know" books. This series looks like a great addition to my nonfiction collection.

    Oh, How Pintearesting!

  5. Oh what a small world! Here I am reading this post in Burbank, California with you in Florida and I have studied and visited Michelle's classroom in Denver as well. Love PEBC and all of the work they do and definitely loved Michelle's classroom. I think the guided reading sets are getting much better about including more non-fiction. The other big one people miss sometimes is making their own non-fiction classroom books. It would be very fun to do some math classroom books demonstrating how to play certain math games, patterns, etc.

    1. Ruth, that is CRAZY... You're right about "small world!" That's, hands down, one of the best trips I've ever taken and I loved being able to visit the classrooms, especially Michelle's. Her classroom was so fun and her nonfiction library was amazing!

      Your idea of creating your own books is great. Have you made some math books with your students?

  6. This is a fantastic resource for nonfiction books! Thanks! Can you list any of the item numbers for the sets you have? I'm struggling to find some of these in sets. I especially love the Pebbles books and the Now I know books but I'm not finding the sets. Only ocean and insects. Thank you so much!!


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