Successful Reading of Non-Fiction Texts Requires a Particular Set of Skills
Who doesn’t have wonderful childhood memories of sitting cross-legged in front of a devoted teacher or parent who is eagerly opening a storybook—gently guiding us into the world of imaginative characters in faraway lands?
Most of us do! Positive listening experiences like these encourage young readers to develop their own fiction reading skills so that they can soon enjoy stories, poetry, and fables on their own. As such, fiction reading skills are the foundationally-important reading skills of a child’s elementary education. But what about non-fiction reading skills?
Non-fiction texts, like the features of our solar system; the contributions of Abraham Lincoln; or the effects of World War II, pose a particular set of challenges to students that fiction texts do not. While non-fiction texts require the same ability to decode and comprehend the written word, they also expect the reader to possess additional initiative when it comes to understanding context and vocabulary terms. They also can sometimes require some contextual research before and during students’ reading of them.
- Engage your child’s curiosity by “walking” through the book before reading. Just as we “warm up” to DVDs, CDs, and fiction books by looking over the covers, the backs, and inserts, look over the non-fiction book before reading, helping your child become acquainted with it. Encourage your child to ask you questions or make comments as you go.
- Ask your child what he or she already knows about the subject. Children love to share! This opportunity will give your child confidence in building upon his or her prior knowledge on the subject.
- Ask your child what he or she would like to know about the subject. You might even have him or her write these questions down to answer during reading.
- Carefully look over the table of contents. The table of contents serves as a “road map” to help your student feel organized as he or she reads. It can also help him or her schedule dedicated time for finishing the book if it is assigned reading.
- Provide an electronic research tool with a safe search feature. Model looking up context words or phrases or vocabulary words that your child may not know. Encourage him or her to continue to do so independently while reading.
- Be available as support as your child reads. Regardless of your child’s age or experience with reading non-fiction texts, check in with him or her from time to time to see how the reading is going. A positive response is a good indication that the non-fiction text is making sense. A negative response means he or she needs help or adjustment to a different text or topic.
- Ask your child what he or she has learned after reading the non-fiction book. This is where you can praise your child for mastering the particular strategies needed for non-fiction reading.
- Provide future non-fiction reading opportunities. Once your child is satisfied with reading one non-fiction text, don’t stop there! Continue stimulating and supporting his or her interest in the non-fiction world of reading with frequent trips to the library where, in addition to paper- and hard-back books, digital texts and audiobooks are available for loan!
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