Sunday, December 13, 2009

Selecting Great Non-fiction Books for Kids

Giving children many sources of informational books will stimulate growth in general knowledege, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills. It is essential that we choose challenging, quality, high-interest books for young children. Many reading experts agree that including non-fiction books in primary education experiences will make for a smoother transition into middle and high school level reading. There are several keys to picking great informational books for your children.


The cover of a book must invite the reader to come inside an exciting new world of learning. A good cover should include brightn and intriguing illustrations or photographs that grab a child's attention. The title needs to be short and understandable with large clear font. But the main job of the title is to ignite interest in the topic.


The topic should be age appropriate and relevant to the child's world view. For example, you might have a funny bumble bee teach children about flowers. However, it is important that the information is accurate and backed by reliable referrences. To hold the attention of children the topic should have an element of mystery and be full of surprises. In fact, there should be at least one surprise on every page.


Each page needs to contain a balance of beautiful illustrations with clear, easy to read captions, and informational text. The illustrations should explain and enhance the factual information. For instance, photographs or diagrams on a light background can add a pleasing contrast to a good book.


Many good non-fiction authors use sub headings to help the young reader understand and retain the information. These subdivisions guide the children effortlessly through the information like a treasure map leads you to a pirates chest. A table of contents, glossary and index will help them browse through unique topics. Fonts should be large, consistent in spacing and placement and easy to read.

With today's wide selection of non-fiction books available it doesn't have to be difficult to pick the right books for your children. Inspect each book for the four key ingredients listed above and you will glide through the selection process.


Family Pictures / Cuadros de Familia
by Carmen Lomas Garza
Children's Book Press, 1993
Grades pre K-4

Author: A True Story
by Helen Lester
Houghton Mifflin, 1997
Grades K-4

In a Circle Long Ago: A Treasury of Native Lore from North America
by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Lisa Desimini
Knopf, 1995
Grades K-5

Eric Carle's Animals, Animals
By Laura Whipple (compiler), illustrated by Eric Carle
Puffin, 1999
Grades pre K-6

Hottest Coldest Highest Deepest
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin, 1998
Grades pre K-3

Children of the Wild West
by Russell Freedman
Clarion, 1990
Grades 3-8

We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History
by Phillip M. Hoose
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001
Grades 5-12

The Sum of Our Parts Series

Academic Wings
Author: Bill Kirk
Artist: Eugene Ruble
Guardian Angel Publishers

Kathy Stemke's websites:
Moving Through all Seven Days link:
Add to Technorati Favorites


raj said...

Its a great information, thanks for the post.

billkirkwrites said...

Hi, Kathy. Thanks so much for the generous mention of Bones on your non-fiction list. I appreciate the plug.

Also, I was gratified to read the poem written by Navy LCDR Jeff Giles which you included in your subsequent post. What a very thoughtful remembrance this time of year.

Bill Kirk

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

Nice post and thank you for the list of books for children and their age group.

kathy stemke said...

Thanks for visiting everyone.