I’ve heard several arguments for why children should be reading more nonfiction, most of them concerning improving school performance and raising academic test scores. While these are admirable goals, it makes reading nonfiction sound akin to eating vegetables. My biggest reason for why kids should read nonfiction is: there are some engaging, interesting nonfiction books out there – grab them and read them!
Biographies are real-life adventure books. If your kids are interested in sports, science, animals, art , world domination, whatever, there’s a biography of someone who achieved greatness in that field that can inspire your kids to pursue their dreams. I love reading about little-known heroes who follow their hearts and change the way society thinks, like Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History written by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Sarah McMenemy (Knopf, 2011).
Narrative nonfiction is a term for informational texts that have the flow of a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. There are narrative nonfiction books on virtually every topic. My latest favorite is Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010). It’s the story of Pink, the runt of a litter of pigs, who was raised by a dachshund foster mom. The photographs of the puppies and piglet playing together are so cute, they are squeal-worthy!
“Browsable” fact books like Guinness World Records books or DK Eyewitness books are especially good for reluctant readers, because they don’t have to be read from start to finish. Kids can flip through the pages to find the information they want. 882 ½ Amazing Answers to Your Questions about the Titanic written by Hugh Brewster and Laurie Coulter, illustrated by Ken Marschall was revised and reissued to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. It has incredible photos and diagrams for readers to pore over, and the simple question-and-answer format makes reading information very easy.
Both fiction and nonfiction are important for our kids, like eating both fruits and vegetables will keep us healthy. Nonfiction doesn’t have to be the vegetables, though. Great nonfiction can have all the excitement of an adventure story, all the surprises of a mystery, and all the humor of a comic book. The best part is: if it’s nonfiction, it all really happened!