Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nonfiction for Students

When assessing whether or not a child "likes to read" I think that we often are evaluating whether or not they like to read novels. To be fair, I think that most bookworms are/were avid novel-readers as child. I know that this bookworm and the daughter bookworm certainly are. But is this really the hallmark of a "reader?" I've noticed when I volunteer at my daughter's school library that many of the third graders select nonfiction. If they are indeed reading it, that's wonderful.
Nonfiction is an essential part of every child's library, whether the child reads it for specific information, recreation, or both. Many children prefer to read nonfiction exclusively, and they may voraciously read through every children's book a library owns on the subject of horses or ancient Egypt or basketball. . . . Whatever their motivation for reading nonfiction, children deserve to have books of information that are accurate, engaging, and well written.

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books, page 22

If your child does not seem interested in fiction, try to find some well-written books in a different genre. Many biographies read like fiction, yet may be informative enough to hold the interest of that child, and perhaps work as a crossover into enjoyment of some novels (in the same time period, or covering the same subject matter). For that matter, if your child devours fiction, try to challenge him or her with some nonfiction (again, perhaps in the same general vein of the novels he or she normally chooses). Amanda admitted earlier this week that she is not a nonfiction fan, but since I've come across such great stuff since I've been delving into juvenile nonfiction, and because she is already such a ready novel reader, I'd like to challenge her to broaden her scope a bit. Of the stack of non-fiction books I received, she immediately gravitated towards Amelia Earhart: Flying Solo, because she was familiar with Earhart in the context of being the heroine of Kit Kittredge, who is Amanda's favorite American Girl heroine. It was a start, although that alone has not convinced her to set aside her Nancy Drews.

All week I posted reviews of some nonfiction that I (and even Amanda!)have recently discovered and enjoyed:

National Geographic World History Biographies of Anne Frank and Mozart

Kids Who Rule
Sterling Biographies and Sterling Point books

Earlier this year, I really enjoyed Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini, and Isaac Newton. All of the above links will take you to my reviews of the books, and from there, the links within will take you to the amazon page for that particular book.

I have appreciated your positive feedback on my book thoughts and recommendations. I am glad that some of you enjoy reading them, because I enjoy reading and reviewing, especially when I can share what I liked about certain books or thoughts that they inspired. Please continue to tell me when I've suggested a book that you think you or your family might enjoy. I love it when you comment and give me recommendations of similar books you've enjoyed. Have you tried to encourage broader reading in your family?

Check out linked up reviews from all over the blogosphere each week at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.


Lauren S. said...

I am going to write down your nonfiction suggestions to reference later. Right now, he only wants to read nonfiction books about sports (and he is a little young for many of the titles and series mentioned this week). Thanks for your recommendations!

Susanne said...

This was a great post, Jennifer. It is so true we seem to assume that kids are good readers if they are devouring fiction novels! My son hated to read novels when he was in elementary and one very wise teacher told me to get whatever kind of book or magazine on topics that interested him. He was into skateboarding at the time, so I bought him magazines and eventually it worked into small novels with skateboard characters and got him over the hump of not wanting to read novels. The best advice an English teacher ever gave us!

org junkie said...

I would have to agree as well Jennifer. We have an extensive library for my daughter. When she started out reading and even now she loved horses and over the years I have purchased (mostly second hand) every book I could find on horses or ponys (Pony Pals were her favorite and we own the entire series). I think it is so important to capture their interest in the early years. Of course when my son started reading he wasn't even remotely interested in horses so we started again and now he has his own library. I am always amazed at what gets my son's attention. Those awful Captain Underpants books are his favorite but he enjoys them and will sit and read them for hours.

Have a great weekend!

Jennifer said...

Susanne--thanks for bringing up magazines. They aren't nearly as daunting as a whole book, but also catch the interest of many kids.

Kathleen aka Coffee Mom said...

I completely agree with you Jennifer, reading does not have to be novels. Neither of my boys are terribly interested in reading so non fiction has been a life saver for us. Billy enjoys reading (and learning)from Mythbusters and Monster Garage books. As long as he's reading, it's all good!