You may think your students are only interested in fiction reading, but the truth is, early elementary school students are inquisitive about the world around them. Real people, places, and things can be fascinating subjects for young readers.
Studies have long touted the benefits of nonfiction reading. Nonfiction text helps students develop background knowledge, which in turn assists them as they encounter more difficult reading throughout their school years. Nonfiction can include text features not often found in works of fiction, including headings, graphs, and charts.
But how do you make nonfiction reading fun in your classroom?
Play to their interests
As you get to know your students and learn their interests, match them with books that will encourage exploration of their favorite subject. By reading about something they love, students will begin to associate nonfiction reading with pleasure. And, be sure to introduce new topics as well. You may spark new interests or hobbies for your students to discover. Nonfiction topics can range from animals to weather, math, health, biographies, and more.
Keep it simple
For K–2 students, nonfiction doesn’t have to be intimidating. Remember, this kind of text may be new to students, many of whom are just learning how to read. Even with simple nonfiction books, however, the topics can be informative and the books can teach reading skills students will be able to apply to all academic subjects. Look for books with engaging photos as well as grade- appropriate vocabulary and concepts.
Walk through the book
Nonfiction books often contain different formats and elements than fiction books. Introduce a nonfiction book by taking a “walk” through the book before you read. Discuss text features like the table of contents or glossary, as well as broader topics including fact versus opinion. Breaking apart the elements of the book will help students better understand the text and will assist with reading comprehension.
As you read nonfiction books, ask questions before, during, and after the book. Why does an arctic fox have white fur? Where does rain come from? How do your eyes see in the dark? Questions will help students apply the text to their own lives, while encouraging them to develop inquisitive skills. Questions also help keep your students engaged as active participants in the reading process, rather than passive listeners.
Make real-life connections
Many of the topics explored in nonfiction books lend themselves to real-life lessons. If your class is reading a book about bees, consider serving a honey snack in the classroom. If students enjoyed learning about the weather, invite a meteorologist to speak to the class. Students will learn that nonfiction reading covers topics they’ll encounter in the world around them, and extending lessons beyond the page will enrich learning.
It’s never too early to introduce students to the skills they’ll need to be successful with nonfiction text. Using nonfiction in the K–2 classroom allows students to build a solid foundation for future grades, and tools specifically designed for early learners can help make the process easier for both students and teachers.
Reading nonfiction requires developing different skills than reading fiction, but practice makes perfect. With the right tools and tips, it’s easy to make nonfiction reading fun for your students. Add nonfiction to your library and set aside time daily for reading. You’ll begin to foster a classroom of lifelong learners.