Growing Readers Review: Actual / Factual: Non-Fiction Children's Books

Preschool boy reading book about Africa

The development of knowledge in children from birth through eight is an amazing phenomenon. Both parents and teachers see the speed of learning in young children as a daily wonder. Sorting out this complicated world is no small task; yet through interactions with adults, through the five senses, through play and school, youngsters amass the basis of what they need to know to become independent individuals as well as confident and competent learners.

In addition, at a very early age, children develop their own favorite topics and themes. Have you witnessed a three or four year old dinosaur expert? This is the child who identifies and pronounces the very difficult names of a variety of creatures – not just the T Rex. Have you seen the child who takes a box of crayons and a stack of plain paper and turns them into a world of imagination? Where do these interests come from?

Deliberately and inadvertently, we introduce a myriad of subjects to children every day. Children "file away" most of the information, but some topics become favorites - perhaps lifelong hobbies or even the basis of adult interests or professions. The books in this issue of Growing Readers Review are what we call "Actual and Factual." They are the stories of real things, events, or people, beautifully written and illustrated to capture a child's interest. Non-fiction children's literature can be a child's entry into a broader and fascinating world.

By Susan C. Brenner, EdD.


Me...Jane, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, Preschool: Every prominent scientist or inventor was likely once a curious child. Renowned humanitarian, researcher, and animal activist, Jane Goodall, is no exception. This lovely book recounts Jane's childhood adventures in England. There, Jane, along with her stuffed chimpanzee, Jubilee, loved exploring the natural world. She often hid in a tree, watching the birds and squirrels, and once spent hours in a chicken coop just to see a chick hatch. After reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' book series, Tarzan, Jane dreamed about going to Africa to study primates herself. Finally, Jane's dream came true! Young naturalists will love this inspiring story about Jane Goodall, prominent primatologist, environmentalist, humanitarian, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. Jane Goodall grew up to travel the world, raising awareness about the plight of chimpanzees and environmental conservation. She's an amazing woman whose story inspires others to make a difference by making the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment.

Picture My Day, written by Séverine Cordier and Cynthia Lacroix, Infant & Toddler: Through eye-catching illustrations and simple words, this book explores the typical moments that occur in a day for three young children. More than just a picture dictionary, this book embraces what life is like for young children, from first words to engaging interactions.

Balloons Over Broadway, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, School Age: "Every Thanksgiving morning for more than eighty years, mammoth-size balloons have risen to the skies to wobble and sway, sally and shimmy, up and down the canyons of New York City." In 1928, the giant puppets took flight for the first time. A joyous text, vibrant multi-media illustrations, and an inspiring story make this a book to remember.

I Can See Just Fine, written by Eric Barclay, Preschool & School Age: Reading a story to a child can be an excellent way to introduce a new topic and begin a conversation. I Can See Just Fine by Eric Barclay introduces preschool, kindergarten, and young school-age children to their first eye exam and the possibility of wearing glasses. The main character, Paige, experiences some trouble seeing details, but seems afraid to admit this to her family. Her mother takes her for an eye exam and when Paige gets glasses, the results are dramatic. The world is in focus again. This book could be a good introduction for young children about to have their first visit to the eye doctor.


Wiggle, Written by Taro Gomi, Infant & Toddler: This is a delightful interactive game in which the child's finger becomes a penguin's beak and an elephant's trunk, and more. Sure to bring on the giggles, this book also builds fine motor and problem-solving skills.

Wait! Wait!, Written by Hatsue Nakawaki and Illustrated by Komako Sakai, Infant & Toddler: In this beautifully illustrated work, a young child begins to explore the outdoor world. Subtle text and soft illustrations make this a book your child will want to read over and over again.

Tushes and Tails, Written by Stephan Frattini, Preschool: Can you look at "a tush and a tail" and guess the animal before you turn the flap? Enjoy the fun and learn some interesting facts with this engaging collection of photographs.

The Greatest Dinosaur Ever, Written by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Illustrated by Gennady Spirin, Preschool: Gorgeous illustrations and a bevy of fascinating facts make this book a great find for any dinosaur-loving child.

The Boy Who Bit Picasso, Written by Antony Penrose, School Age: What would it be like to be friends with a famous artist? Antony Penrose relates his childhood experiences with Picasso in England and France. The book offers a lively perspective of the artist, as well as more than 65 photos and paintings.

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Preschool boy reading book about Africa