Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Reading Nonfiction Aloud: Locating Appropriate Books

As teachers and librarians become increasingly aware of research showing that many students prefer nonfiction, they are searching for ways to integrate it into their lesson plans. One great option is read alouds.

Since studies reveal that 42 percent of students prefer expository nonfiction and, overall, students choose nonfiction for pleasure reading about 40 percent of the time, I’d suggest choosing a nonfiction book as a read aloud about 40 percent of the time. If you’re doing #classroombookaday, that means selecting a nonfiction title—preferably an expository nonfiction title—twice a week.

This goal may sound good in theory, but is it realistic? Is it sustainable?

I talk to a lot of teachers who are hesitant to read nonfiction aloud. They ask me the same three questions over and over:

1.    How do I locate appropriate nonfiction titles?

2.    How do I read nonfiction aloud in a way that engages students?

3.    How do I encourage and facilitate student responses to a nonfiction read aloud?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to provide some advice that should help.

If you scroll down to last Friday’s post, you’ll find a list of 25 great expository nonfiction titles that I highly recommend as read alouds.

As you search for more books on your own in the future, it’s important to think about how students will respond. For starters, look for books that will engage young listeners right away.
For example, An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston and Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre have provocative titles that will immediately spark curiosity. 

Next, read the beginnings of books to see if they will hook your audience and make them want to hear more.
For example, here’s the first line of Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth:

“The differences between a bowerbird and me are fewer than you might expect.”
And here’s how Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs by Melissa Stewart begins:

“Everyone loves elephants. They’re so big and strong.

Everyone respects cheetahs. They’re so fast and fierce.

But this book isn’t about them. It’s about the unsung underdogs of the animal world. Don’t you think it’s time someone paid attention to them?”

Who could possibly resist openings like thse?

As you preview potential titles, look for books that aren’t loaded with academic vocabulary. If more than 10 percent of the words are unfamiliar to you students, it’s probably not a good choice for reading aloud.

I hope these suggestions help you with the first question above. Next Wednesday, I’ll address the second question.


  1. I'm looking forward to this series of nonfiction book talks... great tips on reading aloud. Thanks.

  2. Hear hear & hooray for expository NF!!