Introducing Non-Fiction Literature to Older Children

So maybe you’re like I was and you have a child or two or four who missed out on non-fiction as a tot.

Now what?

Here are some ideas that have gotten my older kids excited about non-fiction:

  • library Trips:  If you take your children to the library or book store on a regular basis, along with their fictional selections, require them to select (and read) at least one non-fiction book and then share what they learned.
  • The Internet:  Use technology to your advantage.  Find video clips on the web ( and are two good sources among many) that teach about subjects that may interest your child.  As they learn more on-screen, they will be primed to read more off-screen.
  • DVDs – Find entertaining DVDs made for children to introduce non-fictional subjects.  The Magic School Bus is a great cartoon series that uses a fictional plot to introduce a scientific concept.  Again, this kind of introduction will prime the pump for more serious reading.
  • Historical and Scientific Fiction – Nope, not a typo, I’m not talking Ray Bradbury here.  This genre tackles a non-fiction subject and weaves a fictional story into it.  The American Girls series, Classical Kids, and The Magic School Bus are all examples of this.  Ask your librarian for more series in this realm.
  • Field Trips – There’s nothing like the promise of a trip to the zoo to spark the interest of a child in all things animal.  Make a chart of the topics you want your child to read up on and label it with the title of the associated field trip.  When all the topics or books have been read up on and checked off, it’s time to go on the field trip.
  • Find out what interests your child and have him read up on those subjects.  The biggest hurdle in getting older children to read non-fiction is getting them to open the book and turn the page.  It is not so much what non-fiction they read as it is that they are willing to read non-fiction.  Does your 8-year-old love Legos?  Give him a copy of The Ultimate Lego Book.  Is your child into magic?  How about a biography on Harry Houdini?
  • Have your child read a children’s biography of their favorite author (and then stand back because they will commence to read every book ever written by said author).  I watched my 18-year-old do this in junior high with Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) and Louisa May Alcott (Little Women).
  • Do first, then read.  Andres (8) showed no interest in a great book we had on electricity until he got a snap circuit set for Christmas.  Now he takes his electricity book to bed with him at night.  Enough said.

Your turn:  What non-fiction books held your attention as a kid, and what kinds of non-fiction are your kids reading?


6 thoughts on “Introducing Non-Fiction Literature to Older Children”

  1. Hi, Alyson…there was an article in the paper on this very subject. It suggested that parents who read to their children choose a nonfiction as well as fiction works. Sounds like a winner to add to your great list…xxoo

  2. These are great suggestions! Thank you!

    We’ve really enjoyed having Visual Dictionaries around the house. I’ve gotten then from library sales for really reasonable prices. Just looking through them has gotten my son interested in all kinds of things. We also picked up a $5 set of encyclopedias (from 1992) so while the internet isn’t mentioned at all and a lot has happened over the past 21 years — the info in the encyclopedias is still pretty accurate.

    I don’t know how long this will last, but around here it is, “Monkey see, Monkey do.” So I’ll just start looking at a visual dictionary or the encyclopedia and my son will want to join in, too.

    1. That’s awesome!!!! If you’re a history buff, the Kingfisher and Usborne one-volume history (they have science too) encyclopedias are classics. They have two page spreads with easy to understand chunks of info.

      Thanks for stopping by – I love your book reviews!


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