Best reference books for children aged 3 to 12 years?

OK, I’m back on the library trail — this time for non-fiction books. What are your favourite books? Did you ever, as a child, lose yourself to a really brilliant non-fiction book? If so, please shout out its title or subject and we’ll gallop over for a look!


I’ve been chatting to people about “reluctant readers”, in particular “reluctant boys” (I have SO much to say and ask about this, but first things first) and my next little reading project is going to be finding books for them. One thing that struck me was that in my last Twitter survey, the vast majority of replies related to fiction. We say “reading”, and so often think of fiction, but what about a collection of brilliant reference books? Could this be why some readers are reluctant — they like to read things that we don’t offer?

So, I’m looking for fantastic reference books. The ones that will make even the most reluctant readers dig in. (Next survey will be all about graphic novels and cartoons — watch this space).

This list will be updated as we go. For now:

The Guinness Book of Records 2017 (bought) 

National Geographic book (5,000 facts) (on order) 

Attenborough wildlife books (The Life of Mammals, Planet Earth, etc) (Bought The Life of Mammals) 

A really good underwater photography book (David Doubilet or Chris Newbert) (Doubilet on order) 

An animal atlas (ordered the Usborne Picture atlas)

A great book about the planets

Anything to do with historical costume (up to 1960s) and British history (looking now)

Books on the Tudors (the library has a collection as it was  a recent study topic, but yes, good call!) 

Also these were left over from the library section (the fiction books were all bought, but the reference section was incomplete:

DK animal book / The Natural History Book by @DKBooks;

an atlas;

a collection of wide-ranging reference books (ooh, help with titles, please?);

dictionaries, several languages (Google translate is our friend? Although I did see a really cool Roald Dahl dictionary the other day — would that count?).

Also, one that’s not been on my list but might make a library look fabulous — Wildlife Photographer of the Year collections? I’ve put in a couple of orders because I think these could, by definition, look spectacular up on the shelves…

There are also countless “favourite books” listed and now, in December, lots of end-of-year reading lists. I’m going to head on out there and pull out a selection, I think.

So while I’m doing that, what are your favourite reference books? Please, please, email/tweet/shout/comment your answers over and they’ll be added to the list and all considered for inclusion in a children’s library.




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