Challenge 3: Nonfiction Fun (Yes, these two words DO go together!)

Some of us are immediately turned off by this word, nonfiction. We think automatically, I don’t like nonfiction. But why? What do you associate nonfiction with? Often, people (children included) associate nonfiction with school. Or work. Or boring topics we were assigned to research at some point in our lives. Those associations are legitimate reasons to THINK we dislike nonfiction.

madeline nf
“What??! There are people that don’t like nonfiction?!” (This is just her new camera-smile.)

Now, can we push negative associations aside, and think about nonfiction in a different light? (Those who have good associations with nonfiction, and already enjoy it, congratulations—you get a gold star!)

You win. But keep reading anyway.

First, think about any scenarios in which you ENJOY nonfiction. Do you enjoy reading magazines? Most magazine articles are heavy on the nonfiction—think about the topics: celebrities, cooking, parenting, human interest, places to travel, gardening, home improvement, sports. See how this list can go on forever? As many interests as people have, there’s a magazine for that. Wait a second, some are thinking, magazines are cheating, aren’t they? A magazine is not a book. (We could throw newspapers/online news sites in here too.) The articles are short and sweet, not requiring too much brain power or commitment. We enjoy magazines, so it shouldn’t count as reading, right? Are you getting how ridiculous it sounds to actually verbalize these thoughts? OF COURSE magazines count as reading. OF COURSE we enjoy having things to read that are easy to attend to, short and tailored to our interests. Magazines are fantastic because they are authentic, real-world, adult reading. So letting your kids see you reading a magazine is great, because even if you don’t consider yourself a “big reader,” they are seeing an adult role model doing authentic, real-world reading. Do you understand the impact this has on a kid? It’s subconcious reinforcement that reading is something adults do, for the rest of their lives, and for pleasure!

You have a new excuse for why you're reading a gossip magazine--"I am modeling adult, lifelong reading for my children, thankyouverymuch!"
You have a new excuse for why you’re reading a gossip magazine–“I am modeling adult, lifelong reading for my children, thankyouverymuch!”

Why not get your child his own kid-oriented magazine? As a gift for the past several years, my mother-in-law has been renewing my children’s subscriptions to Highlights and High Five magazines. The gift that gives all year long! There are also National Geographic for Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, American Girl, Ranger Rick…google “magazines for kids” and you’ll see lots of options. Or go to your library and see what children’s magazines they take. You probably can’t check them out, but you and your kids can look through them to see what appeals most to them. Another of my favorites is the Lego Club magazine, which is free; you just have to sign up! Every classroom should be getting Lego or Lego Jr. magazine! Here’s a link to sign up for Lego Club. I mention magazines and the like because many adults can relate to interest in reading them, and they’re nonthreatening for most. But the variety of types and levels of nonfiction books available in most libraries is fantastic. Nonfiction is wonderful for everyone, but I want to point out some benefits for reluctant readers.

  1. A nonfiction book/text does not necessarily have to be read in sequential order. Many lend themselves to browsing and for the reader to skip around to the parts that interest him/her. Don’t you do this with your magazines or newspaper? Can we please extend this adult, lifelong reader habit to our children? We are, after all, trying to help them become lifelong readers, so let’s allow them the privileges that we allow ourselves. If a book appears to be made for browsing small chunks of the topic at a time, let them read it the way they want to, when reading for pleasure.
With little blurbs of information all over the page, it’s clear there’s not a specific order for kids to read these in, nor is it necessary for every blurb to be read. (Page excerpted from Crystal & Gem, pictured below.)

2. You can find nonfiction books that are tailored to your child’s unique and specific interests. Baby animals. Trucks. The digestive system. Blood. The Netherlands (I was obsessed with the Netherlands as a child). Hurricanes. Holidays around the world. Shapes. Colors. Bodily functions. Space. Sewers. You are the expert on your child, so you may have to go hunting for books based on his/her interests in the nonfiction section of the library. For reluctant readers, having a book tailored to his/her interest is a big deal. I will read anything if it’s about something I already like; kids will do the same.

Had to grab this one on a recent library visit for my 7-year old who is interested in all things crystal or gemstone. DK Eyewitness Books are typically colorful and attractive, making them a solid choice for kids nonfiction reading.
Had to grab this one on a recent library visit for my 7-year old who is interested in all things crystal or gemstone. DK Eyewitness Books are typically colorful and attractive, making them a solid choice for kids nonfiction reading.
I spotted this one at a library book sale, for 25 cents. Anne Rockwell is a favorite nonfiction author for the very young. My daughter has enjoyed My Spring Robin since she was a young 2.

3. It’s not the dark ages anymore. Even as recently as the 1980s and 90s, when I was a kid, nonfiction books were not nearly as attractive and tantalizing as they are now. If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked at nonfiction books for kids, you’ve got a pleasant surprise coming. Kids, reluctant readers especially, will be drawn in by the incredible photographs; bright, helpful illustrations; and reader-friendly layouts in today’s nonfiction books.

See the bone pictured here in Crystal & Gem? A photo of a bone is a surefire attention grabber with elementary readers. They want to know, “What kind of bone is it? Did someone die? Why? What does a bone have to do with crystals and gems?” All the other bright photos and small, manageable blurbs also contribute to the attractiveness to young readers.

4. Some children just like nonfiction better. Maybe they haven’t been exposed to much nonfiction, for whatever reason. What if nonfiction is THE genre that turns them on to reading? You know that means you absolutely have to try it, right?? Additionally, kids that enjoy and practice reading nonfiction are at an advantage as they get into higher grade levels because from upper elementary school and on, there’s a definite shift into nonfiction reading (think textbooks. articles). If they already know they enjoy this type of reading and can navigate their way through nonfiction text features (things like headings, subheadings, bold words, italic words, etc.), they’re a step (or more) ahead of their classmates.

seth nf
On a recent trip to the library, we were back in the fairytale section, which is near the nonfiction. Guess who gravitated to the nonfiction? And this was after I made him weed out half his books.

Whew! Are you convinced it’s time to put aside your nonfiction prejudices and give it a try with your kids? You might even spot a book that interests YOU in the children’s section! Don’t restrain yourself! Get it. Share it with your kids. Think of what an awesome lifelong, adult reading model you are! You get TWO gold stars for that.

gold-star  gold-star

11 thoughts on “Challenge 3: Nonfiction Fun (Yes, these two words DO go together!)

  1. bking11 March 20, 2015 / 3:30 pm

    How did I not know about the free lego magazine?? Ahhh–love this whole post, Sara! Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sara Treat Chance March 20, 2015 / 7:47 pm

      Yes, you need Lego Club magazine, Bonnie! I feel like I’m getting away with something by getting it for free…I guess all the Legos we buy make up for it. 😉


  2. bking11 March 20, 2015 / 3:31 pm

    Ahhh! How did I not know about the free lego magazine!? Love this whole post! Thanks, Sara!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cece Chance March 20, 2015 / 7:12 pm

    Another great column, Sara! So glad you wrote on this genre. I have always loved non-fiction. I browsed encyclopedias at every opportunity as a kid. Also read zillions of biographies. Also love the pics in this article!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sara Treat Chance March 20, 2015 / 7:49 pm

      Yes, I am saving biographies, autobiographies and memoirs for another challenge, but I had a few I wore out as well. I used to think I didn’t like nonfiction, but then I realized, I DO like it and in fact read a TON of it, but it’s on topics/people I LIKE. So my brain wasn’t considering it nonfiction because I enjoyed it….which makes no sense. I just think people like it more than they think they do! 🙂


    • Sara Treat Chance March 20, 2015 / 9:26 pm

      And thanks for the Highlights/High Five magazines! We read them over and over.


      • Cece Chance March 21, 2015 / 2:22 am

        My pleasure!


  4. Andrea Tappe March 20, 2015 / 7:15 pm

    Love it Sara! So excited!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cathy Privitt March 20, 2015 / 10:46 pm

    Great article. My grandmother had stacks of magazines and gave her children subscriptions to Reader’s Digest. I have always enjoyed reading that! My parents always read the daily newspaper.


    • Sara Treat Chance March 21, 2015 / 5:10 pm

      Yes, I enjoyed those Reader’s Digest subscriptions too! My parents always read the newspaper too, and I think that’s why it’s always been part of my morning routine–pretty neat how those adult reading models impact us as children, for the rest of our lives.


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