The Fact of the Matter: Exploring Non-Fiction Books with Young Children
When I think about reading with babies and toddlers, I have to admit that I usually think about reading stories or poems. But at our usual library visit last week, I thought I'd see if there was a children’s non-fiction book about trains for my train-obsessed toddler. Luckily for me, they had one. We borrowed it and we’ve read it every day since we took it home.
Although the book looks like it's aimed at a slightly older child, my two-year-old loves it as his bedtime story. He's interested in exploring the pictures, so we talk about the different trains and I tell him a little bit about the features of each one - he’s completely engaged and curious.
Fact books give us a lot more flexibility. You can dip in and out of different pages and explore at your own pace
I feel like this has given me new and creative ideas to add in to our play time together. When we’re playing with my toddler's train track, I now have more ideas about what I can say and how I can link what we've learnt about different trains with our play. This linking up is a great way to help children’s learning and literacy development and also deepen their understanding of the world as they start to draw the connections between the book and their own experiences.
To get the most out of fact books with your baby, toddler or pre-schooler, think about sharing the book, as opposed to simply reading the book. When we read a book to a child, we typically read all of the words in order from start to finish. While this works perfectly well for a narrative story, non-fiction books give us a lot more flexibility. You can dip in and out of different pages and explore it at your own pace. Choose a page or section of the book and really give your child the chance to explore it in great detail to cement their learning. Children are never too young to start this process.
Non-fiction books are great for children of all ages; they help children learn about the world, and see things and talk about things that they may not experience otherwise. The best ones will also present the information in a really exciting or creative way. Some books use speech bubbles or short sentences in the illustrations so you can just read a short phrase instead of big paragraphs of text - this is a great way of boosting the number and variety of words a child hears.
Here are some great non-fiction picture books to get you started:
- Peep Inside Animal Homes by Anna Milbourne and Simona Dimitri
- Look Inside Trains by Alex Frith and Colin King
- Mad About Monkeys by Owen Davey
- Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst
- Seek and Find Space by Bloomsbury Activity Books
- Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins and Tim Hopgood
- First Animal Encyclopedia by DK
But, as with any book, the most important thing is to follow your child’s interest. Babies, toddlers and children are naturally curious about the world, so sitting together to explore a non-fiction book is a great way to help them develop their love of books and reading – while also helping them learn.