Digging in to Nonfiction!

by Miss Candido, OAS Media Specialist

How to Read a Nonfiction Text

When helping your child read a nonfiction text, engage in the following steps.


Take a "walk" through the text. During the "walk", look through the contents, look at the headings and pictures and notice any supporting visuals such as a map, timeline, or chart.

Reading the Book:

If there are headings, turn the heading into a question. Asking a question based on the heading will help focus the reader on what he/she is about to learn.

Read the main text. Notice any bold words in the text. Look up any unfamiliar words in the glossary.

Read the pictures. Look at the illustrations or photographs. Read any accompanying labels. Read any other visual text features. Some examples of these text features include charts, maps, diagrams, graphs, and timelines.

Check for Understanding:

Ask your child questions so he/she can practice:

Locating specific facts in the text or visuals: Example: If your child is reading a book about ladybugs, ask questions such as "What does a ladybug eat?", "Where do ladybugs live?", and "How do ladybugs protect themselves from enemies?"

Identify the main idea: Example: "What was this passage mostly about?" For younger children, it is best to ask this question about a section of the book rather than the entire text. If your child turned the heading into a question while reading, ask them to answer that question.

Dig Deeper into the Topic: Example: If your child is reading a book about ladybugs, ask questions such as "Why are ladybugs important to gardeners?", "how doladybugs protect themselves from their enemies?" and "Describe the life cycle of a ladybug."

Navigate a Digital Text

So much of the reading we do today is digital - on computers, tablets and smartphones. The children are reading websites, databases, blogs, ebooks, tweets, and posts on social networking tools. Here is the vocabulary I teach the children to help them effectively navigate when they are engaged in digital reading.

Menu - a list of choices

This term refers to the contents of a website. This listing of the website's pages or sections may be along the top or on either side of the site.

Tab - something that sticks out visually allowing you to identify and find it easily

This terms refers to anytime a website organizes its pages or sections that visually looks like a pile of file folders stacked on top of each other. An example of this is the database PebbleGo.

Link - any link in a website that takes you to another part of that site or to another related website

This term refers to a highlighted word or picture that you can click on and it will take you to another place in the same website or to a different website.

Icon - a button

This term refers to any buttons on a website used to navigate the site.

I also teach the students a strategy I call "Think Like a Reader". When using this strategy, the children are encouraged to use what they know as readers when previewing a digital source and engaging in digital reading. The graphic below shows the steps in this strategy.

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Tips for Sharing Nonfiction with Kids

Getting the Most Out of Nonfiction Reading Time is a guide from Reading Rockets that explains how to read a nonfiction book with your child.

Video - Reading Aloud a Nonfiction Book

Active Read Alouds: Bringing Nonfiction to Life

Suggested Nonfiction Books

Actual Size (Steve Jenkins)

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird (Stephanie Spinner)

Balloons Over Broadway (Melissa Sweet)

Beachcombing: Exploring the Seashore (Jim Arnosky)

Beneath the Sun (Melissa Stewart)

Citizen Science: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard (Loree Griffin Burns)

Feathers: Not Just for Flying (Melissa Stewart)

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs (Lisa Kahn Schnell)

I See a Kookaburra! Animals Habitats from Around the World (Steve Jenkins)

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives (Lola Schaefer)

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel (Kathryn Gibbs Davis)

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda (Melissa Sweet)

A Nest is Noisy (Dianna Aston Hutts)

No Monkeys, No Chocolate (Melissa Stewart)

On the Mayflower (Kate Waters)

Over and Under the Snow (Kate Messner)

Raindrops Roll (April Pulley Sayre)

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus (Jen Bryant)

Sea Turtle Scientist (Stephen Swinburne)

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (Lois Ehlert)

Shark or Dolphin? How Do You Know? (Melissa Stewart)

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero (Barbara Rosenstock)

Think Like a Scientist on the Playground (Dana Meachen Rau)

Time to Eat (Steve Jenkins)

Tracks, Scats and Signs (Leslie Dendy)

The Tree of Wonder (Kate Messner)

Vulture View (April Pulley Sayre)

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? (Steve Jenkins)

Where Else in the Wild - more camouflaged creatures concealed--and revealed (David Schwartz)

Woodpecker Wham (April Pulley Sayre)