“I like reading books about real things.” My younger son made this observation when he was only in Kindergarten. Luckily, he told his school librarian, who helped connect him with some great non-fiction titles appropriate for his age. Now, as a rising 4th grader, he will read and enjoy fiction, but he tends to lean towards picking out non-fiction books. Some kids are just wired that way, they prefer reading a non-fiction book to a fiction book. Non-fiction books are more fun for them!
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Two Broad Types of Non-Fiction in the Children’s/Young Adult Section
1. Informational Non-Fiction Texts
It is important for kids to be able to read and gain information from a non-fiction format. Expository non-fiction books are written with a different text structure than fiction, and often use the text, as well as pictures and graphics to present information. If your child prefers fiction, it is still important to expose him to this type of non-fiction, so he will know how to process and comprehend that type of information. Most school textbooks are written in this format. We don’t think of textbooks as being fun to read, but many of these are interactive books with flaps or detailed pictures with diagrams that kids love to explore. DK Eyewitness books are a wonderful example of this type of non-fiction.
Samples of Informational Non-Fiction:
pages 22-23 from Teeny Tiny Animals, by Lexi Ryals
pages 32-33 from DK Eyewitness Books: Robot, by Roger Bridgman
Other great books which are examples of informational non-fiction:
Knights in Shining Armor, by Gail Gibbons (and other Gail Gibbons books)
Young Genius: Bones, by Kate Lennard (other Young Genius books)
Here There Be Monsters, by H.P. Newquist
2. Narrative Non-Fiction Texts
Although I sometimes need to learn from informational texts, I don’t particularly enjoy reading them. I prefer narrative non-fiction. These are written more like a fictional text, with the exception that they are based on true characters and events. Readers will still learn information from these narrative non-fiction texts, but in a format that is more story-like. If your child prefers fiction over non-fiction, try some narrative non-fiction and see how it goes! Picture book biographies and other biographies and stories about real events aimed at older kids are examples of this type of non-fiction.
Samples of Narrative Non-Fiction:
pages 18-19 from Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography, by James Cross Giblin
pages 10-11 from The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation), by Daniel James Brown
Other great books which are examples of narrative non-fiction:
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, by Joseph D’Agnese
Play, Louis, Play!, by Muriel Harris Weinstein
I am Malala (Young Readers’ edition), by Malala Yousafzai
If your child has a specific interest, but doesn’t particularly enjoy reading, try finding a non-fiction book about that topic for him to read! Whether his interest is in construction vehicles, animals, sea monsters, a period in history, or something else entirely, check out a book about it! He may also be more open to reading a fictional book written about the same topic. He could even be interested in reading both, since they are on a topic he already likes. (Intentionally reading two or more books together that complement each other is called “Book Pairing.” Read more about book pairings here!)