Montessori tends to prefer nonfiction books over fiction books, which makes finding interesting and themed books for Montessori preschoolers a bit of a challenge. I try to strike a balance with some realistic fiction but I’m always happy when I find nonfiction that carries the same appeal as a children’s fiction book. We lucked out during our Montessori Bird Unit, and many of these books would also be appropriate for an elementary setting, as well!
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Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward and goregously illustrated by Steve Jenkins shows a variety of bird mamas (and papas) building unique nests for their babies. Children learn that each bird family has a different nest that suits their individual needs, and there is a small paragraph on each page that goes into further detail about the birds, their habitats, and how their nests make sense for them. I would encourage skipping over the “explanatory paragraphs” during the initial reading and just enjoy introducing the concept that not all nests are the same!
Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L Roth and Cindy Trumbore is one of the most gorgeously illustrated children’s books that I have read recently. The paper illustrations help tell the parallel story of the development of Puerto Rico and the parrots that live in the trees above it. The book slowly evolves to tell the true story of the conservation efforts currently taking place to save the parrots, and at the end children can see pictures of the real scientists and birds that the book centers around.
Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why by Lita Judge has the look and feel of a children’s picture book, with pencil illustrations of the birds the book discusses, the book tells short snippets about the different sounds and activities of a wide variety of birds — and the reasons behind those sound and behaviours. A really interesting book that instills the idea that everything in nature has reason; not to be read cover to cover but in small bursts or used to look up specific birds. You could also use it in conjunction with the BirdTunes app.
We found so many great field guides about birds! I think the most important guidebook to track down would be one that contains birds that your children have a strong likelihood of observing themselves, but the children were also fascinating by the field guides of other countries that contained wild and exotic (to them) birds. We love the Wiggles, so Fascinating Australian Birds was a big hit in our group! We used What’s That Bird by Joseph DiConstanzo to try and identify some backyard and neighbourhood birds that we observed. I really liked the format of What’s that Bird, along with the small anatomical labels that accompanied each picture and were very reminiscent of the information conveyed in Montessori Biology cards.
We also enjoyed Birds, a well-designed and interactive book featuring great illustrations and fun challenges to keep kids thinking and expanding their knowledge of birds. (For example,the book has a few clear cellophane sheets with feathers or beaks on them, encouraging children to overlay the sheet on the pictures of birds and guess which bird the feature belong to.)
Everything Birds by Cherie Winner featured typical kid questions and short one-paragraph answers. This would be a great read-alone book for an older child, or a resource for an adult who might be expected to come up with the answers to these questions. I appreciated that this book used real photographs throughout.
About Birds by Cathryn Sill was another great resource book for going into some small details about questions and curiosities the children are likely to have while studying birds.
And our only fiction books to make the list (simply because a list about favourite preschool bird books would be remiss without them) Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus and The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!, both books written and illustrated by Mo Williems, are fun reads that encourage kids to use their listening skills and interact with the story in a simple way (mostly yelling “no”). Both books are sweet and leave kids laughing, and are a perfect way to transition reluctant children into a bird unit study, in addition to bringing up some great conversation points about manners and rules. (Books like this are also really great for encouraging parents and teachers to improve their story-telling abilities.)
Those are our Top Ten Bird Books, mostly nonfiction just to keep my fellow Montessorians happy. I was really blown away at the fun nature and beauty of the nonfiction books we discovered and it gives me hope that I can continue to find great nonfiction works that don’t make me feel like we are missing out when we don’t indulge in fiction during our learning.
What bird books would you add to this list?