This makes me happy.
A mug full of brand new colored ink pens.
It almost makes me want to lesson plan, write out what I need at the grocery store, or conjure up the strength for a To-Do List mid-week (I said almost).
When I purchased these pens a few weeks ago while back-to-school shopping with my children, my daughter totally Got It. Yes, mom, those pens are superfun. Yes, mom, you should buy them. Yes, mom, they really do make you feel better about going back to work. My son? Quite the opposite. In fact, I think his comment (aside from the slight eye roll) was, “I prefer pencils.”
To each his own.
And so it is with the books we’re attracted to. Right?
Some of us like fiction, some of us like non-fiction, and some of us like either, depending on our moods. Same with children. Except. Non-fiction is sometimes forgotten – or, if not forgotten entirely, it is sometimes an afterthought. As in, read 20 minutes of this Amelia Bedelia book, and then I’ll let you look at whatever you want. And sadly, many lists that come from teachers and schools (especially leveled lists) only have fiction suggestions. And really, many readers (both reluctant and non) prefer non-fiction over fiction. What’s more – they often have very specific interests.
When I was growing up, non-fiction books often meant identification books. You know, books that would list things like animals and plants and rocks and bugs. They would be in alphabetical order, complete with a little blurb about each item and an index in the back. These types of non-fiction books still exist for children, but increasingly, there are narrative (or “readable” as I sometimes call them because kids inherently seem to know what I mean when I say that) non-fiction texts available for young readers.
Find what your child likes. Especially if you have a reluctant reader, she might not be finding books that interest her. Sure, it would be so much easier if she could pick up any ol’ book and be happy, but think of it as something to celebrate! Your child has opinions and taste and feels comfortable enough to know what they are. Honor it. Do a little sleuthing. These days, non-fiction books cover a huge range of topics, and if you discover the right one, you just might create a reader.
Before I delve into topic ideas to consider, I’d like to point out that when you combine some aforementioned suggestions in regards to reluctant readers with non-fiction ideas, you might really find yourself with a perfect book for your reluctant. Example: a book about Ancient Egypt that has a smattering of pictures, a fair amount of white space, and an appealing cover? Boom! Done! Or, all about D-Day, complete with a slightly larger font, kid-friendly sketches, that’s easy on the eye. You’re golden. <Hint: the What Was/Who Was series and the You Wouldn’t Want… series both fit this bill!>
Here are some thoughts as you consider non-fiction ideas for your young reader:
~ Is your reluctant an animal lover? Sharks, bats, spiders, dolphins/whales, dinosaurs, dogs/cats, horses, koala bears, and reptiles are just some topics that often spark interest. Take a look at your library’s offerings. Maybe animal babies, rainforest animals, predators, ocean animals, or raptors might be the ticket. Even if your reader is upper elementary and capable of chapter books, know that many non-fiction picture books are packed with text and information and perfectly suited for a more experienced reader. Ask a librarian for help, too! He likely knows the more popular titles that are all the rage.
~ Shocking, unbelievable, tragic events are often interesting non-fiction options. Don’t read (no pun intended) too much into it. Just know that Titanic books can transform a non-reader into an avid one. Think Hindenburg, earthquakes, hurricanes, Pompeii, UFO’s, WWII (or WWI or the Civil War or any other horrible conflict in history), and even various diseases (measles, the Plague, Polio). I realize this seems unpleasant, and someday I’ll consult with a child psychologist about the trends I’ve observed through the years, but I’m telling ya, some kids really find this kind of thing beyond fascinating.
~ Planes, trains, and automobiles – but also military machines – can get some readers fired up. I don’t know that adults usually think about having a child read about the inside of a jet or Humvees or muscle cars, but Things That Go can get some of our kiddos reading (and reading and reading).
~ Gross-out topics. You know, the information grown-ups love to hate. The reality is kids want to know more about many of the things they encounter but have been told are taboo: boogers, poop, sweating, blushing. And, I always maintain that if your child wants to know about such things, better he have correct information than not. If your kiddo hits this phase, please know that is it just that: a phase. It will not last forever, and in the meantime, there are loads of books on such topics. Use a library catalog, and don’t be embarrassed to type in “fart;” you’ll not be the first (or the last) to do so.
~ Sports! Favorite players, teams, and general sporting how-to appeal to all kinds of kids (and sometimes are just what reluctant readers are craving)! One word of caution: these books can sometimes go out of date quickly as sports news is constantly changing. Still – dig around – you’re bound to find something of interest!
What else? Ask your child! I’ve had young readers plow through every single book about the Civil Rights movement, tornadoes, and New York City. Often, these are personalities who tend to grab a hold of a topic and hang onto it until they’ve literally worn themselves and everyone around them out. But who cares? They found something they like to read about! The children’s book publishing world is vast. If you think a topic your child mentions is too obscure, still look to see. You might be surprised at what is out there for kids to read!
Once again, I’ll suggest that you allow your reluctant reader to take the lead. If you think ladybugs are clever and darling and oh-so special, that’s wonderful, but if your child doesn’t, the book about ladybugs will not be read. And likewise, if you scowl when she happily wants to try a book about hammerhead sharks, it won’t make her like them any less, but it just might discourage her a little. What does he like to read? What is she interested in? Whatever it is, if you find a book on the topic, it just might get read — maybe even consumed, devoured, and — I’m thinking Cookie Monster, here, just gobble, gobble, gobble — all satisfied yet hungry for more -– and that’s what we’re after.
Go on a little treasure hunt in your library’s non-fiction section. I work in a library, and I still get surprised by little gems I run across – books about money, names, hedgehogs, Diwali, and Black Holes. It’s all there!