As literacy levels drop in many countries worldwide, parents and educators are encouraging kids to develop a strong reading habit early on in life.
While many believe that so long as they’re reading something they will reap the rewards, research shows that kids really benefit from reading non-fiction material.
Fiction is great and spurs imagination, drawing kids into magical worlds, but there should be a mix of non-fiction and fiction in their regular reading materials.
How do we get kids reading? ENGAGE THEM WITH THINGS THEY WANT TO READ! Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comics, whatever: if it’s meaningful & pleasurable to them, #literacy will follow!
Art: Bill Watterson pic.twitter.com/UrOH4uKZQJ
— SF Said – on travels, back April 24 (@whatSFSaid) October 25, 2018
In the US, there has been active measures this last decade to incorporate more non-fiction in the Common Core Standards (a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy).
But in other countries, especially developing nations, there is often insufficient access to non-fiction reading material for children.
The Global Reading Network writes, “The Common Core State Standards, now adopted by 42 out of 50 states, expects a 50-50 balance of fiction and nonfiction text use in reading.”
“However, on an international scale, we often fail to provide nonfiction books and reading instruction. In developing countries, readers in early grades tend to have very limited choices for appropriate nonfiction, whether in a school, a library or a book store.”
According to RoomtoRead, “Informational texts become increasingly important as children progress through school, and yet children in early grades have very few options for appropriate non-fiction books.”
“When we surveyed the countries we work in throughout Asia and Africa, less than 20 percent of available titles were children’s non-fiction books. The options for students in grades one through three were even less at just 7 percent. “
Some students think of non-fiction as textbooks or ‘boring’ material, but there are plenty of interesting non-fiction books targeted towards kids below 18 years old.
What do kids learn from non-fiction books and why is it so important for children to read them?
Prepares young learners for the future
We are enjoying our non-fiction research during our reading time! The kids are really taking ownership and showing independence. @WarnerCFISD Thanks for the inspiration @MrsWorchesik!! pic.twitter.com/iAFkBMUXSd
— Allison Sewell (@mrssewellwarner) April 2, 2019
As students progress through school and then on to university, they will be required to read plenty of non-fiction.
RoomtoRead writes, “For children to read and learn from non-fiction books they must be exposed to nonfiction regularly, and just as importantly, they need to learn the unique features of expository text. One key feature of expository text that can be learned is text structures, such as “compare and contrast” or “cause and effect.”
The structures in non-fiction material teach children how to process new information, as expository writing communicated more information in shorter sentences, like in textbooks.
There are plenty of ways teachers can incorporate non-fiction in lesson plans to make it more interesting for kids.
For example, the book ‘Teaching Informational Text in K-3 Classrooms: Best Practices to Help Children Read, Write, and Learn from Nonfiction’ by Mariam Jean Dreher and Sharon Benge Kletzien is highly recommended for teachers.
Benefits kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds
Reading non-fiction regularly is good for kids who don’t have the privilege to learn useful information like general knowledge from a parent or relative.
This information gap, if left too late, may lead them to become demotivated and unwilling to pursue higher education if they are not encouraged to read more non-fiction at an early age. It also improves their reading abilities and gives children from struggling backgrounds brand-new perspectives and life skills to address challenges in their lives.
For example, reading an inspiring rags-to-riches biography can inspire them to work hard and give them hope of a better life. It opens up the world around them, leading them to become better communicators while exposing them to what’s happening in their communities and the world at large.
One of the best ways to learn new words and how to use them correctly is through reading. According to the Global Reading Network, “Vocabulary knowledge is key to academic achievement, comprehension and general ability to speak, read and write. Nonfiction text integrates vocabulary in an accurate and natural manner.”
Getting children to start reading non-fiction early is important, and both parents and educators should collectively encourage it.