The Benefits of Reading Non-Fiction Books
This week, in celebration of Golden National Non-Fiction November, our guest blogger is author and senior editor Kirsty Holmes. She’s putting forward the case for non-fiction, so let’s hear what she’s got to say.
American author and journalist Tom Wolfe once said, “The problem with fiction is that is has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” – and I think it’s a great argument!
Much of our focus on reading in the classroom, especially reading for pleasure, is often on fiction – and for good reason. Fiction stories draw readers in with amazing worlds, fantastic beasts, and relatable characters. But today I want to think about how non-fiction should take pride-of-place on everyone’s reading list, too – and show you a few of my favourites from the BookLife collection.
Stranger Than Fiction
The universe is an infinitely bonkers, bewildering and beautiful place. From lizards that shoot blood from their eyes to a creature with cube-shaped poo, there’s plenty of content out there that makes you think ‘you couldn’t make this up!’ (And don’t all children love a book about poo?).
In my spare time, I’m the mother to a 7-year old reluctant reader. My eldest son likes to have stories read to him (I like to think it’s my excellent voices!) but if he has to pick up a book of his own, he reaches for non-fiction every time. Somehow the need for him to know more keeps him going, even when tackling books of facts that are designed for much older readers! He will always persevere with a non-fiction book more than a fiction or chapter book. The pace and excitement of a story can be lost in the stuttering and plodding that is learning to read – but in non-fiction, pace isn’t as important and the reader can digest things at their own speed. The need to know is a strong motivator, and somehow, the fact that he knows the things he is reading about actually exist in the world make the effort of reading worth the work. His eyes sparkle as he says “Mummy! Did you know that...” and, if I’m honest, so do mine.
Knowledge Is Power
Good non-fiction is so empowering. When we understand science, we are less likely to fall prey to superstition. When we understand history, we can begin to shape our own future and understand our origins. When we learn how things work, we can fix them. When we feel we know things about the world around us, we can be confident in our opinions. Reading non-fiction for pleasure can give every child the tools they need to better understand the world we live in.
From Little Acorns, The Mighty Oak Trees Grow
Non-fiction texts make up around 84% of adult, real-world reading. Fostering a love of informative reading at an early age prepares children for adult life, encourages questioning and critical thinking, and builds a functional, adult vocabulary. Our biggest and most important job as educators is to prepare children for life in the real world – and as non-fiction is drawn from the real world, what better preparation could there be?
Children can have such a strong sense of wonder. As their world expands, from home to the classroom and beyond, non-fiction texts can help develop inquiry, curiosity, and a connection with the world around them. Building connections – be that with other cultures, experiences outside their own, or with the natural world – is essential in raising the next generation of grown-ups as empathetic thinkers, global citizens and environmental protectors.
Being a non-fiction author, I’m obviously biased – but some of my own favourite reading memories are of non-fiction texts. From how macaroni is made (look it up, it’s fascinating) to how a combustion engine works, I remember being amazed at how magic the world can be. Come on over to our twitter @BookLifeSocial and tell us what your favourite non-fiction books for children are, and how you use them in your classroom. Happy reading!