You probably already know that Boone County Public Library has a treasure trove of picture books for your little ones to enjoy, books by Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems and many others designed toDump Trucks Pebble capture the hearts and imagination of Boone County’s littlest users. But BCPL also has many non-fiction titles for our littlest users, books bursting with information about the world around them, from the squiggliest bugs to the stars above and everything in between.
Children from preschool to early elementary age are “insatiable learning machines.” (2) They are inherently curious about the world around them. (1) They want to know!  Introduce them to non-fiction – it feeds this fire.  And as every parent of a youngster knows, one question leads to more questions!
Beyond enjoyment, there are many reasons for you to share non-fiction with your little ones:

  • Different kids have different interests and studies show children do not overwhelmingly prefer stories over non-fiction. (1)   Your child may select non-fiction when given a choice.
  •  If your child is interested in a topic (and much non-fiction is high interest), they are more likely to stick with the title and, as a result have better comprehension and writing performances. (2,4)
  • Non-fiction can also help children struggling to read. (1) If your child is excited about a book, it can motivate him to work through it, all the while growing reading ability and self-confidence.  He may even begin to read beginning readers and chapter books better, too!
  • Studies show boys have a preference for non-fiction and it may help them find something they want to read. (5, 6)
  • Non-fiction helps your child build vocabulary because it contains more varied and technical words. (5) And comprehension is gained by building background knowledge. (8)   This, in turn, can help your child with later schooling and reading.

Here are some tips to help you choose, and use, non-fiction for your preschool or early elementary aged child:

  • Select topics they are curious about that are relevant to their lives and experiences (5,6)
  • Or choose something entirely new.  Maybe it will lead to new interests!
  • Find a book for your child with an inviting cover that includes crisp, colorful photographs or illustrations.   Non-fiction looks MUCH better now than when you were a kid!
  • Letter size and type should be large and simple and the spacing and placement of words should make passages easy to read (7)

Of course, encouraging your youngster to read these titles is good, but don’t forget there are benefits to reading non-fiction aloud to your child, including sharing the knowledge within the titles.  For instance, if you read “A Butterfly is Patient” by Dianna Aston Long to your child, forever after you and your child will both know about chrysalis’ and may even be able to point them out on a nature hike.
If you do read non-fiction out loud to your little one, here are some steps you may want to follow:

  • Skim through the book quickly before reading.  There may be some pronunciation you want to practice.  Watch out for those dinosaur names!
  • Talk about what you know about the book’s topic before you read.  See what you learn!
  • Be enthusiastic – let your child know you are enjoying the moment, too.
  • Highlight new words and encourage participation.  Many titles for this age are repetitive, in a good way.
  • Paraphrase if needed or re-read fun passages.
  • Talk about what you have learned after reading (1,10,6)

You can also pair a picture book with non-fiction.  For instance, after reading, ”Roar: A Dinosaur Tour” by Michael Paul, you could read “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs” by Mo Willems or “How do dinosaurs say I’m mad?” by Jane Yolen.
Sharing non-fiction with your preschooler or early elementary aged child can benefit them in many ways – larger vocabulary, enhanced reading comprehension, ready for later schooling – but most importantly, it is fun.  So grab a stack of non-fiction today and dig in!
Cindy Yeager has worked for BCPL for 20 years. For 8 of those years she thoroughly enjoyed being “Miss Cindy,” providing storytimes and programs for kids of all ages at the Florence Branch.  For the past 13 years, she has been having a blast as the Youth Collection Development Librarian, choosing books and AV for the kids and teens of Boone County to enjoy. 
1 – Duke, N. K. (2003, March). Reading to Learn from the Very Beginning: Information Books in Early Childhood. Young Children 58(2), 14-20.
2 – Lempke, Susan Dove. (2009, October). Early Literacy and Series Nonfiction.  Booklist Online.
3  Caswell, L.,J., & Duke, N.K. (1998). Non-narrative as a catalyst for literacy development. Language Arts, 75, 108–117.
4 – Jimenez and Duke (2011, October). The Reading Teacher, 65(2), 150–158
5 – Pentimonti, J. M., T. A. Zucker, L. M. Justice, and J. N. Kaderavek (2010, May). Informational Text Use in Preschool Read-Alouds.  The Reading Teacher, 63(8), 656-665.
6- Grawemeyer, B.  Early Childhood Building Blocks: Beyond the Story Book: Using Informational Books with Young Children.
7- Stephens, K. (2008, March). A Quick Guide to Selecting Great Informational Books for Young Children.  The Reading Teacher, 61(6), 488-490.
8 -Wixson, K.  Reading Informational Texts in the Early Grades.  Research into Practice. Pearson, Scott, Foresman.
9 – Korbey, H. (2013, July).  How to get kids hooked on nonfiction books this summer.  Mind/Shift.
10 – Yopp, R. H. and H. K. Yopp (2012, April). Young Children’s Limited and Narrow Exposure to Informational Text. The Reading Teacher, 65 (7), 480-490.