When encouraging a child to read, how often do we recommend a nonfiction book? Students will gravitate to fiction titles and series, but the nonfiction section may not receive as much attention. There are many great series for kids, but curling up with a great biography? That’s not as appealing, not even for adults. The majority of reading that students do in school is nonfiction or expository (explaining something). The shift to common core standards nationwide has brought the importance of nonfiction to the forefront.
Encouraging a child to read nonfiction may not be as difficult as you think. Here are some ways that you can encourage a child to read nonfiction.
- Connect the child with the book. It won’t be difficult to get students to read if the subject is a high interest topic. If a child shows interest in space, animals, the environment or even a celebrity, that’s a great way to pique a child’s interest in nonfiction. While it may be challenging to find a nonfiction book about unicorns, a connection could be made through nonfiction books about unusual animals from different parts of the world. Connections can be made through historical or emotional events. Periodicals could work too! Check out magazines written especially for kids offering accessible nonfiction texts on current events that are short and concise to pique the interest of young readers – National Geographic Kids and Scholastic News, Time for Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids.
- Consider the appealing features of the book. Just as with fiction, nonfiction books for young people have appealing artwork or photos to catch the reader’s attention. Compare and contrast the elements of a nonfiction and fiction book. Nonfiction books may include an index, captions, a glossary or other features that are not included in fiction texts. For reluctant readers, high interest nonfiction texts can be more accessible because nonfiction texts do not have to be read from beginning to end as with a novel. For instructional texts, a reader can access the information needed without reading the entire book. Introducing these skills when students are looking at nonfiction books can make them more appealing.
- Offer a child the option to choose from a selection of nonfiction books. Reading nonfiction doesn’t happen in isolation. Choice is still an important component when looking for any book, whether it is a fictional story about friends or a book on sharks, or a nonfiction book with facts about the Galapagos islands or renewable energy.
Things to remember when recommending nonfiction books to young people…
- Spend time introducing the features of a nonfiction text. For students who enjoy reading literature and understand the text structures, there are unique features of nonfiction texts such as charts, graphs, illustrations, captions and comparisons. Examine the words used – prefixes, suffixes, or specialized vocabulary. Compare and contrast the different features of nonfiction books. Nonfiction books may include an index, captions, a glossary or other features that are not included in fiction texts.
- Ask questions. Once you encourage a child to read a nonfiction text, then talk about it, what did you learn, what did you see? What was an interesting fact you learned from the text?
Discussion will help a young reader with comprehension, the ability to recall facts, as well as how to interpret and synthesize information. Cause and effect, sequencing and following directions are all useful skills both in and outside of the classroom. All nonfiction books are not alike. A student interested in building things with Lego may be interested in researching small machines because of the expansion of the concepts and learning. Reading nonfiction or expository texts help children develop research skills.
As students progress in school, most of the text that they read is nonfiction. Expository texts use specific language that help students develop additional vocabulary and specific knowledge of a subject. Talk about nonfiction books to develop critical thinking skills. What did you learn? How does that compare to____? How does it differ? For children who skilled at reading nonfiction texts they will be able to be successful not only on achievement tests but in society and have a better understanding of the world.
Over the past 3 years, 68% of WITS students surpassed the national average for annual reading level growth