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Nifty Tips for Reading Nonfiction Aloud to Your Child

by Cyndi Giorgis

Image credit: monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

If you haven’t selected a nonfiction book to read-aloud to your child recently, you might be surprised to discover fascinating topics, eye-catching illustrations, and engaging text contained within a variety of informational formats. Today’s nonfiction is sure to stimulate kids’ natural curiosity about the world around them.

Nonfiction has a higher value beyond its ability to assist in the writing of school reports or detailing the steps of a science experiment. High-quality expository text is on display in these books, through which kids are able to develop critical thinking skills.

The many reasons for reading aloud a fictional book — to bond, to entertain, to inspire, to reassure, to explain — can be applied to reading aloud nonfiction. Both fiction and nonfiction also expands kids’ vocabulary by introducing new words and specialized terms.

Background knowledge increases when reading nonfiction aloud, as it introduces kids to people and places, historical events and current issues, and natural disasters and scientific explorations. Additional benefits of nonfiction include the opportunity for vicarious experiences and the possibility to learn about things that may never be encountered.

In selecting nonfiction to read aloud, look for books that are visually appealing with well-written text and age-appropriate topics:

  • Babies and toddlers enjoy books with brightly colored objects that are familiar, such as an eye, dog, or shoe.
  • Preschoolers repeatedly ask “why,” so choose books with information to answers their questions or prompt new wonderings. Counting and alphabet books are also good choices.
  • For all ages, listen and seek out books that might satisfy or pique kids’ interest, such as books about artists, dinosaurs, bugs, machines, sports, mummies, or Vikings. There’s no limit to the topics that can be shared and the knowledge to be gained for both you and your child.

When reading aloud a nonfiction book:

  • Say the title of the book and the names of the author and illustrator.
  • Consider taking a “book walk” to examine features such as captions, charts, graphs, timelines, and photographs. This heightens the excitement of reading.
  • Use an expressive tone when reading aloud, especially if the information is written in a narrative style.
  • Pause occasionally and ask open-ended questions like, “What do you think?” or “What are you wondering?” Pre-reading a book will assist in identifying good talking points. Encourage your child to be active in the reading process by asking questions as well.
  • Stop at key words or phrases to ensure understanding.
  • Determine if you want to read one page, one chapter, or the entire book. This decision is based not only on the structure of the book, but also the child’s interest. Here are a few examples:
  • Examine the back matter. There might be an author’s note that provides more information or details the research process. Other items in the back matter may include a glossary, a pronunciation key, maps, a bibliography, source notes, online resources, and lots of other neat information.

Reading nonfiction aloud to your child exposes them to a range of topics, supports them in learning new information, and reinforces the pleasure of reading. So let’s get started with these recommended reads!