Children are reading more nonfiction at school than ever, and they start earlier than ever. Reading nonfiction sparks a lot of learning and discovery that’s really exciting for kids. It can also be challenging, so your child will need the right skills and strategies to succeed.
So, what can you expect from nonfiction as your child moves up through the grades, and what strategies will he or she need to learn? What are the personal benefits of reading nonfiction?
Reading Nonfiction in School: What to Expect
From the moment your child starts school, nonfiction will be part of his or her day-to-day learning. From kindergarten through high school, kids encounter a range of nonfiction, including books and textbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, and literary essays, biographies and memoirs.
In early elementary school, your child will read picture books and Easy Readers about all kinds of topics, like dinosaurs and bugs, inventors and sports heroes, and the bottom of the ocean and faraway planets. Young kids are curious, and they love asking questions and finding answers in books!
Once children get to 3rd or 4th grade, they make the important transition from learning to read to reading to learn—in other words, they start reading to learn information in subjects like science and social studies. At this point, your child will start to build skills specifically for reading nonfiction.
By the time your child gets to middle school and high school, nonfiction is at the center of his or her education. It’s the main way that students build knowledge and learn how to think critically. It opens up a lot of new doors, which is both exciting and challenging. That means your child will need new tools and strong skills to be successful.
5 Key Strategies Your Child Needs
Reading nonfiction is quite different from reading fiction. It’s denser and more complex, so students need a different kind of approach—one that’s active and analytical. Heading into reading with a clear sense of purpose makes all the difference. Here are five strategies that will help your child read nonfiction successfully:
- Identifying key concepts. Textbooks and other nonfiction are chock-full of information, so your child will need to know how to figure out what’s important. The best way to do this is to read closely and identify the main idea of a text, along with the details that support and explain it.
- Recognizing how text is organized. A text can be structured in different ways—for example, it can follow chronological order, or compare and contrast two ideas. When your child can identify how a nonfiction text is organized, it’s much easier to follow the development of ideas and keep track of important information.
- Previewing and predicting. Students gain a lot by previewing a textbook before they actually start reading. Taking a quick look at the headings, figuring out how the text is organized, and asking questions like “What will I learn about?” helps kids set a purpose for their reading and take control of the process.
- Monitoring comprehension. When kids read nonfiction, they need to pay attention to whether they’re understanding the material. Strategies like stopping periodically to retell what they’ve read help them test their comprehension and fix any gaps in their understanding.
- Summarizing. When kids summarize, they are identifying the most important information and putting it in their own words. Taking this active step will help your child learn new material and cement it in his or her memory.
Rich Personal Benefits
It’s so important for your child to master these strategies. Being a skilled, confident reader of nonfiction is at the core of your child’s academic success. But there are some really big personal benefits, too!
- Strong readers enjoy nonfiction and read it for pleasure. A great nonfiction book can pull you in and be a thrill to read, just like a really good novel.
- Nonfiction will ignite your child’s curiosity. Now and throughout life, your child will get to explore topics he or she is passionate about, and discover new interests as well. It’ll shape how your child looks at the world.
- Reading nonfiction helps children develop into strong critical thinkers. Your son or daughter will learn to consider different points of view, and form his or her own opinions about things that really matter.
Doing lots of reading in nonfiction will really expand your child’s horizons. He or she will grow up to be a thoughtful, knowledgeable adult with a wide range of interests. Your child will look to books for learning and inspiration, and have a lifelong love of reading.