The University of Iowa

Help Your Child Read Non-Fiction in 6 Easy Steps

Loft library with reference books

Helping your child select from the wide variety of texts available can motivate them to read a non-fiction book. Try finding books about a topic that already interests them.


Posted on: June 21, 2016

Non-fiction reading is a critical part of your child’s reading development. It is important that children are given a variety of books to read, including a balance of fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction books are organized differently than fiction books and are read for a different purpose: to learn new information.  

Below are 6 easy steps for helping your children read non-fiction books

Step 1: Select a book

Help your child brainstorm topics about which she might be interested in reading (e.g. birds, tractors, cooking, geography). Take your child to your local library and have her select a non-fiction book that is appealing.

Step 2: What does your child already know?

Have your child think about what he already knows about the book’s topic. Connecting his background knowledge with new learning will help your child select the most appropriate book and comprehend its information.

Step 3: Preview the book

It is important for your child to take time to preview the book.  Non-fiction books often use a variety of text features to present new information, such as:

  • A table of contents
  • Captions
  • Sidebars
  • Maps
  • Bold words
  • Subtitles
  • Graphs
  • Diagrams

Help your child notice the non-fiction text features in the book. In addition, you can discuss a few vocabulary words that are related to the book’s topic. You can locate important vocabulary by finding bold words or using a glossary in the back of the book.

Step 4: Get ready to read!

Not all non-fiction books have to be read from beginning to end. With a book on a variety of topics, show your child how to choose bits and pieces to read or how to read it in a different order. Also, help your child learn to use the table of contents by asking her to select a chapter she might want to read first.  Then, have her locate the page number and turn to that section of the book.

Step 5: Stop and discuss information

Find a good stopping point in the book and talk with your child about what she is reading. Discuss any interesting points in the book or new information she has learned.

Step 6: Reflect on the information

Ask your child a few questions about the book. Examples include:

  • What is some new information you learned from reading this book?
  • What did you think was particularly interesting?
  • What would you like to learn more about?

If the book was of particular interest to your child, encourage him to select other books on the same, or a similar topic. You also can research the topic online to learn even more.