Nonfiction poetry focuses on conveying facts about subjects through engaging and creative narratives. Poems that teach about nature, history or science can be useful for helping kids who love to to read books about facts try something new. Likewise, they can draw fiction-loving kids into a lesson about a less-than-favorite subject.
This list of nonfiction poetry for kids features three main categories:
- Nature and Animals
- Science and Math
If you are new to reading poetry with your children, I highly recommend starting with our (very, very easy) poetry reading challenge. You can find all the details here.
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Nature and Animals
From birds to spiders to stinking animals, no one can resist these nonfiction poetry collections.
Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Watering Hole
by Irene Latham, illustrated by Anna Wadham
Wildebeest is such a fun animal name, but it's not the only animal kids will love to read about! How about the oxpecker, the impala or the ever popular dung beetle? With some entrancing onomatopoeia and informative side notes about the animals and their habitat, kids will keep coming back to this collection again and again.
Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs
by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck
I'm not going to lie, even in children's picture books, spiders creep me out. One of my kids, when they were little, loved a book with photographs of spiders in it. I finally had to secretly get rid of it because I couldn't take it anymore. But even I can't resist a good haiku collection, even if it is about spiders! This collection also features excellent information with notes on the poetic form, a glossary of scientific names, sidebar notes and more.
ANOTHER LIST FOR YOU: Wise and Wonderful Haiku for Kids
by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck
I could not love this book more! These nonfiction verses share fascinating information about birds, from the tiniest to the loudest, to the bird with the most feathers and other intriguing birds. Does your child love facts but hasn't yet developed a love of poetry? Read this!
Predator and Prey: A Conversation in Verse
by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen
I love finding unique poetry books for kids and parents to enjoy together. This is a wonderful collection for those of you who have kids who love to watch nature shows about the survival of the fittest. Each double page spread introduces a predator and its prey in two poems told from the animal's point of view. Some of the poems are designed to be read in two alternating voices, which makes them great fun to read aloud with your kids. This collection will appeal to nature and animal lovers, kids who like drama and those of you who appreciate unique literary forms.
Eek You Reek: Poems About Animals That Stink, Stank, Stun
by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Eugenia Nobati
What kid doesn't love to learn about the grossest of the gross? Now they can learn about the stinkiest of the stinky–through poetry. And so many different words for "smelly!" You've got to love it. Luckily this isn't a scratch and sniff book.
YOU ALSO WANT TO READ THIS: Poets Every Child Should Know
Science and Math
Blast off and solve riddles as you wander through the universe with a book of nonfiction poems tucked safely under your arm.
Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars
by Douglas Florian
Artist and poet, Douglas Florian, has loads of poetry books on all sorts of subjects from baseball and dinosaurs and more. These whimsical space poems are sure to delight. Many of them are also concrete poems, adding another dimension to the reading experience. While the poems are not heavy handed with the scientific facts, a glossary at the end of the book provides more information and context.
Out of this World
by Amy Sklansky
Find it: Amazon
Short bursts of poetry and exuberant illustrations take your child on a journey through the wonders and mysteries of the universe. Each page includes an informative sidebar. This is a good selection for kids who can't get enough of all things space.
Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems
by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Michael Slack
Poems about math! Did you even know there was such a thing? These short poems are math riddles. The answers are upside down at the bottom of each page so don't worry about getting stuck, you'll never fail this math class. Another great choice is Lewis' Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes.
Learn about the stellar accomplishments and meaningful lives of extraordinary individuals though poetry.
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World
by Susan Hood, illustrated by various artists
Not to be missed! Hood's collection fourteen poems about amazing young women is illustrated by different notable children's artists like Sophie Blackall, Oge Mora, Isabel Roxas and others. I love that the poems focus on each figure in their girlhood or young adult life. Ruby Bridges, Mae Jemison, Maya Lin, Frida Kahlo and Nellie Bly are a sampling of the women included.
Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
One of the reason I love children's books is that I am always learning something new! Most of the figures in this poetry collection were new to me. End matter includes a tad extra biographical information about each individual. Older children will enjoy Yes! We Are Latinos: Poems and Prose About the Latino Experience by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
I love the way Weatherford conveys Hamer's journey and place in the Civil Rights Movement through not just one, but a series of poems. It's almost a verse novel. Poems tell the story of Fannie Lou Hamer's life, from her childhood as a sharecropper to her life as an activist. The text is emotional and doesn't gloss over Fannie's hardships, and the collage illustrations are stunning.
MORE POETRY PLEASE!