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Sometimes, despite the presence of ingenious and gorgeously presented materials and thematic elements, a reading shelf full of good books will make or break an entire learning unit. You can see our reading corner HERE. Frequently, the bookshelf is the highlight of the week, made even sweeter when each student finds a new favorite, different from the others. Our learners range from ages six to nine, each with very distinct preferences and interests. Keeping those interests in mind, when we set out to create a book list to accompany the materials on the shelves, we have not limited ourselves to non-fiction books due to the ages of the children. Bulldozer and Princess in particular, seem to really enjoy fiction more at this point, and it seems to enhance their comprehension of the factual material. The following list of book recommendations is divided into two sections: Non-fiction and fiction, with plenty of good titles in each category. We hope you find some new favorites from this list and look forward to seeing your feedback in the comments section.
National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America: The Best Birding Book for Kids from National Geographic's Bird Experts is a great place to start any list of nature guides for children. This volume on North American birds is no exception. It is amazing how much material the folks at National Geographic manage to fit into these slim titles, yet there is really something new here for everyone from the absolute beginner to mini-birding experts. Rather than just list the birds (over 100 species are included) in alphabetical order, they are organized according to their natural habitats, from mid-city pigeons, to desert roadrunners and everything in between.
Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Birds is a title that looks, on the cover, like a fictional story. However, a closer look reveals that Crinkleroot is really the alter ego of famed naturalist Jim Arnosky. He is the author and illustrator of this series for young children, as well as many other nature books for older audiences (we will see one of those later on this list.) Arnosky stands out because his enthusiasm for nature stands out on every page. Whether he's describing a humble sparrow or the majestic crane, Arnosky describes the details that kids can look for even in their own backyard, and inspires readers to get out and experience nature up close. Charmingly illustrated and full of clever tips for improving any wildlife trek, the Crinkleroot books are a wonderful addition to a young naturalist's collection.
United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds Their Stories, Their Glories is a completely different take on the non-fiction bird book. If you can imagine what it would look like if all 50 state birds held a contest to see which is the "best" of all the state birds, you'd have a small idea of what this book is really like. Talbott draws in a very active, kinetic style, and he plays with formatting and page layouts unlike any other children's writer working today. There are subtle jokes that go on for several pages, clever visual gags, and lots of actual facts about these birds and the states they represent. This is a visual feast and a fun read that you can really immerse yourself in, if you are up for a wild ride.
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon is a great selection for the student of history and science. The teaching of history has shifted away from text books towards first-hand accounts and primary documents in the academic world, and this handsome volume for youngsters is a great introduction to that kind of history book. Author Jacqueline Davies focuses on a few crucial years that shaped John James Audubon, and set him on the path to becoming one of the most beloved and influential American naturalists and artists of all time. Davies' compelling narrative work is matched perfectly by the outstanding art work by Melissa Sweet. The admiration they both have for Audubon are clear in the careful, almost hand-made look of the text and illustrations here, all modeled after Audubon's original sketches and notes that he wrote on homemade paper. Audubon's enormous contribution to the study of nature and especially birds is given its due in this excellent volume, designed for fluent young readers.
Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators is our second selection for fluent readers and the second selection from Jim Arnosky. As you can see from the cover above, Arnosky's talent is quite exceptional, especially in contrast to the Crinkleroot book we saw previously. Bulldozer, our 7 year-old, is the most visual learner we have, and this is by far his favorite book on the shelf for our bird unit. The amazing artwork is accentuated by Arnosky's detailed descriptions of these incredible creatures and features life-sized renderings of the birds, some so big they require fold-out pages. Birds of prey are among the most spectacular animals to look at and learn about, and they are given the royal treatment here by one of our most passionate nature authors.
Raptor! A Kid's Guide to Birds of Prey carries the seal of approval of our resident nature lover, Dinomite. This handsome volume is in the same vein as the National Geographic bird guide we discussed already. Full of stunning, full-color photographs, informative graphics and species-specific details, young nature lovers who like their books heavy on facts and action shots will be happy with this one. Dinomite actually owns this one, and it is one of his go-to reads that he reaches for when he needs to unwind or calm down. That's pretty high praise, and this book deserves it.
Atlas of Rare Birds is our last selection in the non-fiction category, and certainly should be considered an "advanced studies" selection; it's much too sophisticated for most children in the 6-10 age range. However, if you have a resident bird lover at home, who has already graduated from the juvenile non-fiction section at the library, this would be a perfect choice. The text is quite sophisticated, but it is accompanied by dozens of beautiful photographs of each rare bird, as well as simple to read geographical and habitat data, that are appropriate for bird lovers of all ages. The variety of species and incredible coloration among birds makes unit studies on the subject very rewarding and deeply immersive for most children. This book is a window to a whole wide world that young children can barely comprehend, but for some, it can really capture their imagination and instill a lifelong enjoyment of these magnificent creatures.
The Ugly Duckling (Caldecott Honor Book) is a great example of how some topics are really enhanced by the addition of great fictional stories to the curriculum. Great stories featuring birds as main characters are abundant, and few are as famous or as enduring as the Hans Christian Andersen tale of The Ugly Duckling. This version, adapted to English and translated by Jerry Pinkney, is everything you could want from a great children's book: a likable main character, a timeless tale of self-perception and self-esteem, told via simple text and beautiful, lush illustrations. This is a great choice when you want to curl up with your child on the couch and read a story.
Make Way for Ducklings is a book you might remember from your childhood. Robert McCloskey, who also wrote and illustrated the gorgeous Bluberries for Sal is one of the best known children's writers of the mid-20th century. A simple tale of a young pair of ducks who (eventually) settle into their new home in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, this story draws you in with it's earnest, good-natured characters and McCloskey's dreamlike yet finely detailed art. Plus, the ducks behave like real ducks. Mr and Mrs. Mallard do "talk" to each other, of course, but they quack when interacting with humans. The interaction between birds and humans is the heart of the story, and McCloskey's message of appreciating the natural world even in urban settings is appreciated even more today than when it was written 70 years ago. This is a classic for a reason.
On the wing is a simple yet elegant book from poet Douglas Florian. We have enjoyed Florian's work as part of other unit studies (his solar system poems are still recited in our house on a weekly basis), so we jumped at the chance when we saw that he had a book of art and poems about birds. This book is great to have around an art shelf, since it can spark some creative art or writing projects in the minds of the more artistic young learners out there. This is a simple pleasure.
The Story about Ping is included here because, well, it's one of Jason's favorite books from childhood. Being a homeschooling parent provides so many opportunities to revisit subjects and favorite stories from one's childhood, and when the kids enjoy the the same stories you loved as a kid, it's such a thrill. Ping is a duckling who gets in over his head one day when he hides in the weeds, rather than being the last one to return to the boat when his master calls. Set in 19th century China, this simple tale is illustrated with whimsical pastels of that adorable little duckling and his colorful yet slightly dangerous world. Princess, our 6 year old, really enjoyed reading this one out loud, and she giggled delightfully when Ping learns his lesson and gets back on the boat. Fiction can take you places that that you can't even imagine, and our classroom has been greatly improved by including simple stories like this one on our book shelf.
A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children. It opens up doors for our children and invites them to explore a huge, wonderful world. Choosing great books for them is a major responsibility. Plus, it is a lot of fun.
As Dr Montessori put it, “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
If you're looking for learning activities and printables to go along with books about birds, here are unit studies we've done in the past!
If you're looking for more fabulous book recommendations, be sure to visit the following posts!
This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series. For more fabulous book recommendations, be sure to visit other posts in the series.
The Best Montessori Friendly Books: Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Elementary | Natural Beach Living
Montessori-Friendly Living Books Library | The Natural Homeschool
Favorite Montessori-Friendly Books for a 2 Year Old | Living Montessori Now
10 Ways To Make Your Kids Crazy About Reading | Planting Peas
Montessori Friendly Books -- Birth to Six | The Kavanaugh Report
Engaging Books for Preschoolers | Mama’s Happy Hive
Montessori & Fiction: Balancing the Bookshelf | Sugar, Spice & Glitter
Montessori Books for Older Children: The Universe Story Trilogy | The Pinay Homeschooler
Children’s Books About Birds | Every Star is Different
Favorite Montessori Resources | Grace and Green Pastures
Our Favorite Montessori Inspired Books for Babies to Preschoolers | Christian Montessori Network