It is Not All About Fiction or Why Children Should Read Non-fiction.
A few times recently I have had mums say to me that their children won’t read, and it worries them. I talk to them for a while and find that their children are actually reading, they are just not reading fiction. They will sit down with books on mythology, or football or animals. For some reason this is not considered reading or developing those reading skills they will need in high school. I have always encouraged reviewer Sam to read whatever he likes, thinking that reading anything is reading, but this week I thought I might delve a bit deeper and find out is reading non-fiction really that good for reading development?
As always, I am not an expert in the field, just an interested mum, and my research is internet based. This blog is a snapshot of what I learned, but I have put what I considered to be the most helpful links below, but you will find many more pages writing about non-fiction reading for children on the internet if you wish to read further.
Why Children Like Non-Fiction
I am sure there are as many reasons for this as there are children, but in the main they boil down to three main ones; they can read on a subject they are interested in, they don’t have to read a book end to end just the bits that interest them, and there are images that assist with understanding. Often finding something children are interested in is the key to getting them to sit down with a book, and even if children do not really like reading they will like something, and if there is a book on it they will at least sit down to read for a bit. Most children will only read the bits of a non-fiction book that interest them, and these books are designed for people to pick and choose bits and pieces of information. This puts the child, not the author, in control of how they approach the book. Finally there are few non-fiction books that do not have images and diagrams that help with understanding, so the text is broken up and not so confronting.
How Non-Fiction helps with your child’s reading development
For the main much of early reading is aimed at building children’s vocabulary and their understanding of words. Reading anything, including non-fiction book, will achieve this goal. This includes all those book on things like how to play cricket, the Star Wars Character encyclopaedia, Dinosaur books, books on Space, the 100 Worst……. However, reading non-fiction takes a step beyond building a word base and word comprehension. Non-fiction adds to a child’s store of information in general, so when they get older and are asked to think critically about things they have more of an information base to pull from.
Helping Your Child Use Non-Fiction Books
While a fiction books is read from end to end, there are elements of non-fiction that if you help your child understand the subject and they can use the books more effectively to find what they want. Things like Tables of Content and indexes help them find specific bits of information. Section heading and sub headings help you drill down into a specific area. Captions, maps and diagrams can help develop deeper understanding. Bold and italics show highlight important ideas. If your child can learn these things early on then they will be developing skills that they will use when they get to high school.
Of course it is wonderful if your child reads a range of books, but if all they want to read is non-fiction then at least you will know that they are still developing important language skills and indeed other skills that will help them later in their schooling. And maybe you could do what one friend of mine is thinking of doing to take the stress out of reading. Let them read what they want in term time, then reward them for reading an agreed upon fiction book every holiday period just to keep up their general reading skills.