While most children love to read fabulous works of fiction, many also find informational texts — from nonfiction books to instruction manuals — fascinating. Where a story can captivate and entertain, an informational text has the potential to intertwine your child’s real-life interests and experiences with the world of books and reading. Whether it be horses or insects, submarines or rocket ships, sporting events or current events, informational texts further your child’s natural curiosity about the world she lives in.
Informational texts include nonfiction books, newspapers, magazines, atlases, how-to’s, instruction manuals, and other reference materials.
5 Reasons for Your Child to Read Informational Texts
1. Provide answers to your child's burning questions. How does a bee carry pollen? How does the car’s engine work? Which team is on the top of the league ladder? Take your child’s curiosity and lead her on a journey into reading with the purpose of finding answers. Informational reading has the capacity to expand her knowledge of the world beyond what she can discover or explore through her own real world experiences.
2. Encourage a deeper exploration into a subject or theme. Informational texts can extend your child’s knowledge and passion for an existing interest by providing more detailed, factual information about her chosen topic.
3. Introduce and explain new vocabulary. Stories often require your child to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words from the storyline, but most informational texts (even those written especially for younger children) combine high-level vocabulary with more explicit definitions. These definitions are delivered within a meaningful context in the form of text dedicated to the topic, further supporting your child’s understanding.
4. Support the message that reading is useful and purposeful. Much of the reading that we do in our adult lives is informational, and reading informational texts with your child helps him connect the importance of reading to real life.
5. Develop your child's thinking and analytical skills. Understanding the format and structure of informational texts provides a solid foundation for comprehending more complex texts when entering higher education or the workforce. As your child examines text features such as tables, diagrams, graphs, and maps, she can develop stronger thinking and analytical skills as she learns to make choices about which information to read first, sees how a topic can be broken down and how these parts can be categorized.
Tips for Exploring Informational Texts
- Pursue his passion. Choose a variety of age-appropriate informational texts that will interest and engage your child based on his interests.
- Introduce the format. Just like with picture books, take the time to explore the structure of informational texts — introducing new features using the correct terminology. Together, explore the purpose of features such as the table of contents, headings and sub-headings, featured text boxes, glossary, index, captioned photographs, diagrams, tables, graphs, and maps.
- Preview before reading. Skim through a new text before reading, using the time as a casual opportunity to notice unique features of the text, introduce new vocabulary and provide your child the chance to share his own knowledge about the topic prior to diving in.
- Be a reading rebel — don’t read from front to back! Demonstrate how the table of contents can be used as a guide for choosing what to read and explore in response to his interest.
- Pause during reading. Stop and check comprehension, asking questions about what your child has read (or what you have read together). Be mindful of the sort of questions you ask, encouraging higher order thinking with questions that have the potential to extend your child’s learning and thinking. Try asking, “Why do you think…?” or “What do you think they mean by…?”
- Engage with the text. Show interest in what your child is reading, inviting him to share details of something new that he's learned.
- See the difference. Invite your child to sort through your home library, separating fiction from nonfiction texts. Talk about the distinctions between the different genres.
Every book collection should include a good balance of both informational texts and fiction. When was the last time you bought or suggested an informational text as reading material for your child? As a challenge, why not have your child choose an informational text for your next read-aloud.
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