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The University of Alabama

UA Matters: The Importance of Reading Nonfiction With Children

Dr. Julianne Coleman

Dr. Julianne Coleman

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.

Coleman is an associate professor of elementary literacy education in UA’s College of Education.uamatters_logo-thumb


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UA Matters is a weekly posting that offers information and tips on consumer issues facing Alabamians. The information is available to reprint in your publication free of charge. Also, access to subject matter experts is available upon request. For more information, contact Kim Eaton at 205/348-8325 or>.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.