In January, when the temperature drops and snow starts to fall, I begin teaching one of my favorite units: Animals in Winter. I designed my own non-fiction unit that covers hibernation, adaptation, migration, camouflage, and more! You can read all about it here. Many teachers also begin this unit in January so I wanted to share some fiction and nonfiction winter animal books that are perfect for this study.
I love to start a unit with a non-fiction book first so students gain some background knowledge, including important vocabulary. After reading these once through, I often go back to reference certain pages as we learn about each adaptation.
Pairing a fiction book with a non-fiction book is great because you can teach students that we can find true facts in fiction books. We point out elements that are true and those that are fantasy. It really encourages questioning when reading, which is such an important skill. When we read fiction books, students learn to question events and do research to find out if they are based on true facts.
The fiction pairings are also a great opportunity to practice story elements and reading comprehension skills while making cross-curricular connections.
Here are MY FAVORITE Paired Winter Animal BOOKs
I’ve organized them by winter behavior, so look for the red headings to find books for each adaptation.
*You can click on any title to purchase the books via Amazon. These are affiliate links, which means I earn a small percentage if you purchase through these links, at no extra cost to you. I always only recommend resources I love!
Of course, you can also check your library for these titles instead of buying them and sometimes you can find the read-alouds on Youtube!
BOOKS TO INTRODUCE YOUR ANIMALS IN WINTER UNIT
I like to start with a KWL chart and as we read books, we add to it or revise our original thoughts. Then, we read books that give an overview of the unit to set a foundation of background knowledge to build upon.
ANIMALS IN WINTER BY HENRIETTA BANCROFT
This is a great book to introduce the unit because it explains most of the winter adaptations in a simplistic story-like manner, perfect for kindergarten and first grade. Students will enjoy hearing about the ways they can help animals during the winter at the end of the book, too.
How & Why Animals Prepare for WINTER BY Elaine Pascoe
If you are looking for a book that reads more like traditional non-fiction with photographs then this may be the choice for you. This book also explains all the concepts and features a different animal on each page. It also has questions for discussion at the end.
When it Starts to Snow BY Phillis Gershator
What if it starts to snow?
What do you do?
Where do you go?
A variety of animals – from a mouse to a bear – share what they do when it starts to snow. This book has a repetitive chant-along verse that will encourage students to participate during the read-aloud. I love to use this book to relate animal adaptation to our own! Have a discussion about how people adapt to the winter weather. As a follow-up writing activity, you could create a class book about what each student does when it starts to snow (if it snows by you!).
Winter Animal Books about Hibernation
I love teaching about hibernation because kids are always shocked at some weird facts: some frogs freeze underwater and thaw out in the spring!
They’re also surprised to hear that bears don’t really hibernate! Well, not like other true hibernators. We do a science demonstration to learn what happens to an animal’s body when it goes into a deep sleep. Read about it in my Animals in Winter post.
Hibernation BY Margaret Hall
This book explains how and why some animals hibernate. Each page layout has just two to three sentences with a large photograph. It covers a wide variety of different places that animals will call home during their hibernation period. Although this book includes bears, we discuss how bears “hibernate” differently from other animals.
Time to Sleep BY Denise Fleming
Bear smells the air and knows winter is near. She walks through the forest letting the other animals know that it’s time to sleep. Throughout the story, the animals share clues to how they know winter is approaching and what they need to do to prepare to hibernate. Lots of facts can be found in this fiction book!
This is also a great story for retelling and sequencing! You’ll want to grab the freebie below to use with this book. It includes images of the setting and characters in the books that can be used for a whole-group retell as well as a center. There is also a cut and paste worksheet for individual practice.
Bear Snores On BY Karma Wilson
The Bear series are some of my favorite fiction winter animal books! Brown Bear is hibernating in his cave while other animals who hunt or burrow during the winter join him to keep warm. The animals have a bit too much fun and wake Bear up early and he’s not happy!
Extension: Great for identifying the beginning, middle, and end.
Bear Wants More BY Karma Wilson
This is a great follow-up to Bear Snores On. We meet back up with Brown Bear in the spring when he wakes up from hibernation and is really hungry. The animals that snuck into his cave during the winter will also make an appearance during this story.
Extension: After reading several books in this series, make a character web to list traits about Bear. Also, have students imagine they were a bear and write about how they got ready for the winter.
Winter Animal Books about Migration
Migration BY Gail Gibbons
You may already be familiar with the work of Gail Gibbons. She is my go-to author for non-fiction books because they contain a LOT of information but are simple enough for elementary students. With this book, she introduces students to the process of migration. Like her past books, this one is filled with great infographics and maps to help explain the concept to younger students.
Home at Last BY April Pulley Sayre
This book has BEAUTIFUL illustrations that promote discussions about different environments! Even though it’s nonfiction, it reads almost like a story. The book follows a variety of animals on their journey home and discusses the need for them to migrate. It also has a repetitive verse that will encourage student participation. Not all of these migrations are motivated by winter changes, which also makes for great discussion and addressing misconceptions.
The Winter Train BY Susanna Isern
Winter is slowly approaching and the animals in the forest are preparing for their journey to warmer weather. These animals decided to migrate by train. Once they are on their way, they realize they left someone behind!
Extension: As a fun project, the students could work together to make a train with all the migrating animals in the unit. You can also make a class version and come up with different forms of transportation the animals can use to migrate!
Winter Animal Books about Camouflaging
Where in the Wild? BY Dwight Kuhn
This is such a creative book! Each page features a photograph with a creature hidden. The students are given a short poem with clues to help them spot who’s hiding. The page has a gatefold flap that flips out and reveals the answer as well as more information for the reader. This book also shows animals that camouflage all-year round, not only for the winter. Extension: have students make an animal using colored construction paper, then “camouflage” it by taping it somewhere in the room with the same color background! See this camouflage project in action in this blog post.
Neon Leon BY Jane Clark
Poor Leon tries to camouflage his skin to blend in but stays neon orange. This is an interactive story that asks its readers to answer questions as well as provide poor Neon Leon some encouragement. The book also provides extra practice for color names and counting.
More Winter Animal Books about All aDAPTATIOns
Over and UndER the Snow BY Kate Messner
This is another great nonfiction book told in a story format. A father and his son go skiing in the woods on a cold winter’s day. The boy discovers many animals that are hiding over and under the snow. The last few pages of the book has facts about the animals that the boy spots throughout the story. This is great to read after discussing that some animals need to either store food away or continue to hunt during the winter months.
Extension: There is a whole world revealed underground throughout this book so it’s a great concept for a mural or drawing! Have students draw a line across the middle of their paper, then draw and label life over and under the snow.
A Warm Winter’s Tail BY Carrie A. Pearson
In this rhyming book, the animals are curious about how humans stay warm in the winter. Students learn how various animals adapt to winter by the questions the baby animals ask their parents. There are some very creative illustrations of what humans would look like if we kept warm like the animals in the story.
Extension: Great book for comparing and contrasting how people and animals adapt in the winter with a Venn diagram!
A Loud Winter’s Nap BY Katy Hudson
Every year, Tortoise spends the winter hibernating, but this year is different. He can not fall asleep. Tortoise discovers how the other animals spend their time during the winter. Some make ice sculptures, while others have snowball fights. This is another perfect book to discuss fact vs. fiction. Extension: This book ends similarly to Bear Snores on. Great for making text-to-text connections.
I hope you learned about some new winter animal books to pair for your Animals in Winter unit. Can you add to this list? Let me know below!
For more ideas on incorporating an Animals in Winter unit in your classroom, be sure to check out this post: ANIMALS IN WINTER- HIBERNATION, MIGRATION, CAMOUFLAGE, ADAPTATION