12 Nov 2015

Non-fiction impacts students in real-world ways

by Joan Marie Galat

I love a good tale as much as the next person and write stories as well as nonfiction, yet factual texts hold a special place in my heart and on my shelves. I still have my first book on birds and fondly remember the How and Why Book of Astronomy that gave me those first insights into the night sky. All these years later, astronomy is the focus in one of my book series (Dot to Dot in the Sky), and birds get plenty of plugs in my tree book (Branching Out - How Trees are part of Our World). The nonfiction of my childhood steered me toward interests that have lasted through the years, and influenced my writing career.

It turns out fact-based titles offer even more than the "wow" factor. Nonfiction is crucial to preparing young minds for the future. It builds critical academic skills by building vocabulary. With content that is often technical or science-based, nonfiction exposes children to words that are less likely to appear within a fictional text. Facts also teach children about different environments and their place in the world. Nonfiction books often connect to curriculums, building on the content children need to grasp in order to better succeed at school. Nonfiction also encourages reading because children can choose books that relate to their specific interests.

Joan teaching kids to juggle after
reading a nonfiction book on
how to keep three beanbags in the air.
Non-fiction reading in the early years has another perk. It helps children gain an understanding of how information can be accessed. Knowing how to use an index and table of contents are life skills. It is important to become familiar with how headings highlight topics, charts summarize data, and sidebars provide more detail. The report writing called for in future jobs or post-secondary education will be easier to manage for those who have spent time in the world of non-fiction reading.

Next time you're picking out a book for a child, or visiting the library or bookstore together, visit the nonfiction section. Factual books can lead to new interests, skills, and adventures. As you can see in the photo, a book on juggling led me to a new hobby. And there's been a bonus. I bring my star-shaped beanbags to schools during astronomy presentations and demonstrate falling stars!

The facts found in nonfiction books, as well as newspapers, magazines, atlases, and other reference texts, create the foundation young children and students of all ages need to ensure a lifetime of learning. Yes, I'm saying you should even read the dictionary. The Reading Rockets website offers more reasons to read nonfiction.

Joan's next book, Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora is scheduled for release in 2016.

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