Tips for getting young readers to explore nonfiction books

Emerging national education standards, such as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, place a high degree of emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving and reading skills. When brainstorming ways to help your child hone these skills, it should be noted that works of nonfiction feature prominently in these new standards. Help your child move ahead of the curve with these tips.


Start small

t Even before your child can read well, you can answer her questions with short snippets of nonfiction text. Young readers’ encyclopedias and children’s websites will often answer common questions about the world with age-appropriate vocabulary. Turning to nonfiction texts to answer students’ questions will help them think of books as a wonderful source of information.

Read together

t Reading with your child creates happy associations and memories with and around books. Take turns selecting books to read together, and when it is your choice, you can opt for nonfiction texts that interest both of you. Eventually your student will select one, too, and she will most likely remember it fondly as part of something you shared together.

Explore biographies

t Biographies are, in certain respects, similar to the style of fiction since they center on a character and tend to follow a plot arc. Narrative is a strong driving force for human understanding, so an easy transition for a fiction reader can involve a narrative biography. Historical figures, musicians or even pop figures often have multiple biographies appropriate for different ages.

Capitalize on their interests

t If your child loves music, purchase books on musical instruments or the history of music in multiple countries. If your student loves dolphins or spaceships, offer her more time spent on those topics with a nonfiction work that focuses on them. This can often spark a chain of interest in new topics or authors. If you like to incorporate free choice learning, spend a couple of hours at a bookstore and ask your child to pick out at least one nonfiction book to take home. Both of you might end up surprised by what you find!

Follow up on fiction favorites

t For stubborn fiction fans, nonfiction books or essays related to their favorite fiction works can be an effective stepping stone. Collections of letters by authors like C.S. Lewis, books about writing or books and essays about the importance of fiction works can all be highly engaging for the avid novel lover. For younger students, taking some time to read short information about the real Christopher Robin or the real Peter Pan can add dimensions to the books they love while supplementing their learning as well.

Explore unusual forms or topics

t Old technologies like microfiche, essays with unusual physical forms, letterpress books or books with science fiction elements (like time travel) can attract otherwise resistant students to nonfiction. Nonfiction has recently exploded as a genre, with collections of creative essays that break tradition both with their content and their physical form.

t At any age, students can learn to love the world of nonfiction, which explores the history of man and the relationship of the self to the outside world, just like fiction. Better yet, it has the added benefit of ideas and vocabularies that will help them succeed later in life.

t For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit

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