At first glance nonfiction books can seem intimidating – facts, numbers, research, real-world stuff, EEK! – but nonfiction doesn’t have to intimidating or overwhelming. In fact, it can be quite fun with several benefits that kids may not even realize they’re gaining! Embracing nonfiction is one of the best things any kid can do.
Here are some of the top reasons every kid should embrace nonfiction.
- Develop Critical Thinking Skills
Reading nonfiction materials help children develop important critical thinking skills. Nonfiction texts allow kids to ask a specific question that they are interested in, such as “What do horses eat?”, and then go on the hunt for the answer. Fostering this investigative drive will undoubtedly develop some serious critical thinking skills. It will also allow kids to think about where they can find the information.
- Gain Knowledge of the World
Nonfiction texts can help kids learn more about other towns or cities, parts of the world, cultures, planets, species, or even more about their own history. Nonfiction gives kids opportunities to see how the world works and lets them safely explore from their favorite reading spot. Developing this knowledge of the world, with its similarities and differences to what they experience every day, reinforces critical thinking skills, and will give them a boost as school textbooks become more content focused.
- Learn Complex Tasks
Nonfiction texts present the opportunity for children to read about different skills and real-life activities. Reading and following detailed instructions are the first parts of completing complex tasks. These activities can be super fun for kids as they build Lego sets or make cookies from scratch! Plus, learning how to complete complex tasks at an earlier age with help them tremendously as they get older.
- Build Vocabulary
Nonfiction materials can help expand kids’ vocabularies. Many nonfiction texts introduce kids to more difficult words, so it’s important to keep your dictionary handy! New and more difficult words can also be accompanied by an image, and some nonfiction books have a glossary to help kids understand new definitions.
The Kids Read Now Wishlist always includes a wide variety of nonfiction books for kids to enjoy, such as National Geographic Kids and the Who Was/What Was series. Nonfiction books can help reluctant readers build a passion for learning about dinosaurs, the first airplane, the galaxy, or even about how to make homemade slime!
The typical image of a child reading includes a comfortable chair, plenty of light to read by, and a colorful book with a riveting tale. If you are looking for a great story for children, the New York Public Library has a list of 100 classic books for children. Or maybe you want to look at what Time Magazine selected for its top 100 children’s books. There is plenty of overlap between the two lists in terms of books. You cannot discuss the best children’s books without having Where the Wild Things Are or something by Dr. Seuss on the list. There is another factor both lists have in common.
There are very few nonfiction books on either list.
Amazing nonfiction books are available for children of all ages. However, most of them are not making it into the hands of students. According to a study performed in 2000, in the first grade only one of ten books on average is nonfiction. Those books were not removed from the shelf often; children were reading them for 3.3 minutes a day in high-income school districts. In low-income districts, that number dropped to 1.9 minutes a day.
Getting children into the habit of reading seems easier with fiction. However, nonfiction stories encourage students to learn different lessons. Most school texts, the ones they will need to succeed, are nonfiction. Preparing them to extract information while they read when they are young improves their ability to do the same with school texts down the road.
One lesson they learn from reading nonfiction is that they do not need to read books in a linear fashion. With the help of the table of contents, they can skip right to the information they need and read from there.
If they do not see it in the table of contents, they can look for information in the index. These are two ways second- and third-grade readers can start to learn how a textbook or other nonfictional tome can be used.
The most obvious benefits of nonfiction reading are the lessons children learn from reading the books! They can learn about Balto, the heroic dog that saved an Alaskan town, or about presidents like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. There may even be some focus on the curious critters we come in contact with in our everyday life! Encouraging children to read about subjects that interest them at a young age lays a strong foundation for learning about those topics in school. And such reading may lead them to find other topics and books that interest them.
As you build your home library, or looking through the library for new reading material, spend some time with nonfiction. It teaches lessons that fiction cannot, like how to search for information, and exposes them to different vocabulary words. Reading nonfiction can lay a foundation of knowledge that will help them as they go through school. It will be just as comfortable in that reading nook that they love while teaching them skills that help through college and beyond.