When it comes to reading, fiction has always been my go-to. I need to escape from the craziness of today and forget about the jobs that I must do (but don’t want to). And when it comes to browsing in a book shop, never would you find me in the non-fiction section. In fact, the only time I’ve ventured that far was when I bought Michael McIntyre’s autobiography (I was slightly obsessed with him at university).
Then I met James (my husband). One of his opening lines in the latter stages (surprisingly) of dating was that he would ‘regularly go to bed with an encyclopaedia as a child’. He devours non-fiction like no one I’ve ever seen. As I’m reading this, he’s currently reading one of Jim Collins’ books, and on average, will polish off three non-fiction books a month. James has to make a conscious effort to include a fiction text in his reading pile, not because he doesn’t enjoy it, because otherwise it simply wouldn’t occur to him.
My experience in schools has very much taught me that James (bless him) is the minority. Most children (and adults) will primarily read fiction texts.
But some studies suggest that actually the opposite is true.
In 2015, Sage Journals published the article, ‘Fact or Fiction? Children’s Preferences for Real Versus Make-Believe Stories’, which states: “the […] imaginary activity associated with childhood [suggests] children are not more prone to liking “un-real” stories […] and may in fact like them less.”
So, it could be that non-fiction is the secret sauce when it comes to getting your child engaged with reading.
What makes non-fiction so appealing to reluctant readers?
Non-fiction books are superb for children that lack confidence with reading or even those with dyslexia. Text is often broken up with diagrams and images, and the information is short form and easy to follow. This means that your child doesn’t have to invest huge chunks of time to reading it, and can pick it up for as little or long as they like.
Series’ such as Horrible Histories offer children access to the weird and wonderful parts of our history and present it in a digestible, funny, and always disgusting way.
Some other excellent options for your child’s bookshelves are:
The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillian (age 5+) – this double-sided foldout book takes you on a journey deep underground the city and countryside. Your child will learn all about the tunnels and pipes, creatures’ burrows, layers of rock and the planet’s molten core to name a few things!
Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers (age 3+) – an exploration into what makes our planet and how we live on it. Very heartfelt that has engaging interactions to match.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (age 7+) – this beautiful book chronicles the struggles and accomplishments of historic and contemporary black women.
The Book of Clouds by Juris Kronbergs (age 9+) – this unique and wonderful book will teach your child the names for clouds and also what they dream about, how they dance. Filled with original poems that highlight the magic of clouds.
The Great Big Body Book by Mary Hoffman (age 5+) – in this book your child will be able to explore questions like ‘should boys wear blue and girls wear pink?’ and ‘what happens when our bodies don’t work properly or get old?’
You can get your hands on all of these books from the Readingmate App.