Non-fiction makes up the majority of my reading. It does for most adults. The newspaper, a blog, a recipe, the nutrition label on the side of a box of those cookies we know we’re not supposed to eat, right? But non-fiction can be very difficult for young readers to comprehend. Sometimes it’s because the text is too dense with information. Sometimes the text uses too many unknown vocabulary words. Sometimes the subject matter is foreign or uninteresting to the reader. Whatever the reasons, many kids don’t know enough about non-fiction or its structure to comprehend it as well as fiction.
A great place to start with non-fiction is reading texts in which your child has a high interest or an abundance of background knowledge. Lucy Calkins says in The Art of Teaching Reading that “the child who is passionately interested in a particular [subject], who is already an engaged and vested learner, will bring a level of engagement and knowledge…that will enable the child as a nonfiction reader in dramatic ways.” (pg. 440) If horses are her thing, let her read about horses. If bugs are his thing, let him read about bugs. Even though the topic may be the same, different authors can present information in various ways that will still allow you to teach about non-ficiton structures.
In this section, I will show you some of the text features and structures found within non-fiction. There are also some great online resources that I want to share with you.