Making use of Non-fiction books

Encouraging your child to read non-fiction books If your child does not seem to show much enthusiasm for the fiction books you have been trying to promote, why not look at some of the fascinating non-fiction (or information) books available? The first section contains some general recommendations of types of non-fiction books which prove popular with different age groups. The books recommended on this page are not designed to be a list of recommended books on specific topics, rather, they are just ideas based on my experience of books which appeal to children. Lists of books on specific topics will be added to the pages.

For babies and toddlers there are many books which fall into the general category of non-fiction, and many of these are “novelty” books, ie they rely on texture, fold-out or lift-up flaps or pop-ups to attract baby’s interest. This type of book is always eye-catching. There is a constantly changing range and a visit to your local bookshop will show you bath books, books you can attach to baby’s pushchair, board books, teether books, wheelie books and many others. One of the most prolific publishers of this type of books is Dorling Kindersley. The books by Robert Crowther, published by Walker Books, are a wonderful example of novelty books – one example of many is ‘Most amazing Hide-and-seek numbers book’. Young children enjoy looking at some of the many books with transparent pages, such as the Young Discovery series, produced by Moonlight Publishing.

Popular topics with young children include transport, animals and toys. Babies, especially, respond well to pictures of faces. When you are choosing non-fiction books for young children, look for

  • books with big, clear illustrations
  • a font (type-face) which is easy for children to read
  • clear, uncluttered pages.

Non-fiction books for older children should include a contents page and an index, to help children learn to do their own research. These have the additional benefit of supporting the requirements of the National Curriculum for English. Your local bookshop should have a large selection of non-fiction books for children. Often the range of books published will be heavily weighted in the direction of subjects covered by the National Curriculum. This can be a great benefit in encouraging children to read, because they will have developed an interest in the subject in the classroom, and are often keen to pursue this.

The following books are aimed at older children. There are many series currently available, which are designed to appeal to both boys and girls of 8 or 9 upwards. One of the most popular series, bridging the gap between fact and fiction, is published by Scholastic, called ‘My story’. These are fictional diaries, based on real historical events, and give children a fascinating insight into “real” people’s lives. All the diaries are stories of young people, and children therefore identify readily with the characters. They are also a great resource for supporting the National Curriculum history syllabus. Titles cover a wide spectrum of historical periods; including ‘Desert danger’ by Tim Eldridge, the story of Tim Jackson, set during the Second World War; ‘Agincourt’, by Michael Cox, the story of Jenkin Lloyd at the Battle of Agincourt; ‘Great Plague’ by Pamela Oldfield, the diary of Alice Paynton; and ‘Suffragette’ by Carol Drinkwater, which is the diary of Dollie Baxter.

Scholastic also publish the enormously popular ‘Horrible history’, ‘Horrible science’ and ‘Horrible geography’ series. These present facts in an entertaining way, and appeal to many children. The series ‘Dead famous’ covers the lives of many people of interest to children, including Shakespeare and Spartacus. Similar series are also produced by other publishers, including ‘The lost diaries’ series by Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore (published by HarperCollins).

Children often respond well to poetry, especially poetry with familiar settings, such as the poems by Allan Ahlberg included in collections such as ‘I heard it in the playground’ and ‘Please Mrs Butler’. There are many collections of poetry available, both traditional collections such as ‘A child’s garden of verse’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, and collections by popular modern poets, such as Roger McGough and Benjamin Zephaniah.

These are just a few suggestions. This page is not designed to be a comprehensive list, just a few ideas to put you on the way to encouraging your child to read. I hope you find them useful. Do take a look at our comprehensive non-fiction book reviews for plenty of recommendations.

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