The University of Iowa

Be the Reading Boss!


Posted on: August 7, 2015

Last week, I wrote about how our family is trying to broaden our reading horizons by trying out different genres, or categories, of books. I realized that I typically check out fiction stories to read to my children more often than non-fiction, or informational, texts. So, this week, in order to try to read more “widely” we headed to the library to check out a stack of non-fiction books.

Once we were home, I thought I would take a minute to browse the IRRC Family Resources Collection for a resource on non-fiction texts. I searched “non-fiction” and happened to find “How to Read Non-Fiction Text.” This article has great tips about how to teach your children that reading fiction vs. non-fiction differs greatly.

Look At the Parts

“How to Read Non-Fiction” describes how non-fiction books can be organized very differently than fiction texts. The article shares how families can explain the purpose of various features of non-fiction books, such as a table of contents, an index, or a glossary.

As my children and I were snuggled in my bed for our nightly reading time, I decided it was a good time to review those non-fiction features. We even turned this into a game of “who can find it first?” After a few tries, the kids were both able to find the table of contents and index pretty quickly. We also made a game out of finding captions. I would show them a page from a book and the first to point to a caption would be the “winner.” Any sort of competition seems to motivate my children and it was helpful in teaching them where to find these features. We will definitely need to do a lot more non-fiction reading for them to really understand their purpose (especially an index and glossary).

Be the Boss

This is my children’s favorite part (and mine) of reading non-fiction books. The article shares how kids can “be the boss” and decide the order of how they want to read the book. It says how looking at the table of contents can help a child decide where they want to read first. I told Griffin he gets to be the boss tonight and decide which book we read and which order we read the sections. He chose a book about hockey that only had 3 sections. He chose to start in the middle of the book. When I protested that we should start at the beginning (jokingly), he said, “Mama, I am THE BOSS!” We started the book at the 2nd section, right in the middle. Griffin, then, dictated that we should read the beginning next and then the end. He thought it was funny to read it out of order, and then we had a discussion about how it doesn’t change the information we are reading to read it in different orders, as a fiction story would.

Ten books displayed
Talk About Non-Fiction

“How to Read Non-Fiction Text” tells how families could take the time to sort their home libraries based on fiction and non-fiction texts. My children and I decided to sort the books in Ryan’s room. Her fiction books overwhelmingly outnumbered the non-fiction books, which validates our need to visit our library quite often to get more non-fiction books to supplement our library at home. With Iowa Core having an emphasis on informational texts, as well as literature, I want to make sure my children have a well-rounded reading background, and a library is a great place to do that.

The IRRC Family Resources Collection is full of great resources that have helped me work with my children. “How to Read Non-Fiction Text” is a great article that was quick and easy to read and had great ideas about how to work with my children.