UA Matters: The Importance of Reading Nonfiction With Children
While fiction books are important for students to read, often nonfiction isn’t emphasized enough by teachers and parents of young children, experts say.
The University of Alabama’s Dr. Julianne Coleman shares some thoughts on the importance of reading nonfiction with young children.
- With the new College and Career Readiness Standards, or CCRS, in Alabama and the emphasis upon reading more difficult texts, it is important that we support children’s reading of nonfiction books, or books related to science, history, art and the world around us. According to the CCRS, it is important for children to learn to use both sources of information — the visual information found in books — charts, graphs, maps and tables, as well as the words, to make sense of the text. Nonfiction books are inundated with a variety of visual information which shouldn’t be ignored when reading nonfiction. Part of being a skilled and critical reader is to be able to “read and decode” the visual information that is encountered by readers.
- Typically, fourth grade is when there is a slump with respect to reading scores across the nation, in part because nonfiction is more difficult to comprehend. Given these new demands, it is important that we help even young children learn about nonfiction books. Reading nonfiction to and with young children is a great way to teach new facts and intriguing information, as well as expose them to new words and to the format of nonfiction books.
- Reading nonfiction books can help children learn about science, history, art and the world around us, and young children find it engaging and even interesting. You can find nonfiction books in libraries, bookstores, supermarkets, yard sales and thrift shops. Magazines, newspapers, recipe directions and street signs are also equally as important to point out.
- Notice and read the different types of print: captions under the photos or diagrams, charts, maps or other visual information. You also don’t have to read nonfiction the way you read stories — you can browse through nonfiction and read parts of a page or a section of the book.
- Look at the table of contents if you are interested in finding out a specific piece of information. Pay attention to the visual information, such as the maps or timelines in the book. Show your child how to follow the timeline or “read” the table in the book.
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