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Reading Non-Fiction Successfully




Let’s face it.  Non-fiction (NF) books are a whole lot harder to read than a good fiction story.  Here are some tricks to make the experience less painful, even, dare we say it, enjoyable!


Picking a non-fiction book:  

First and foremost find a NF book about something that interests you.  You do have to figure that out for yourself.   While you are in science class does anything spark an interest?  How about in social studies, or elective?  Is there anything in your family’s history that is interesting?  Be curious, ask questions and look around.

Types of Non-Fiction:

Biography and Autobiography are for most junior high students, the simplest transition from Fiction to NF.  These are books about real people.  Because they are set in place and time they follow a story arc that is familiar. 

History Nonfiction  are books about events that happened in the past.  Floods, famines, wars, crime, exploration, and scientific discovery are just a few of the subjects covered.  Like biography these are set in place and time and will follow a story arc.

Information/How-To books describe a process or thing.  Cooking, photography and improving your sport skills all fall in this category, as do books on wild animals, and physics.  These are the most challenging because there is no story arc. Just straight information.

Tips for success:

Before even beginning to read take a moment to ask yourself what you already know about the subject of your book.  Then ask what you want to learn. (It does help to jot these down.)

Quickly flip through the book looking at pictures and reading the captions and subject headings.  If there is a table of contents, read that.  This will help you to do the next, most important step;  figure out at least three questions you would like the book to answer.  Write them down!

Stock up on post-its. As you read it helps to note the important information.  I especially like those arrow post-its for highlighting. Read the prolog and afterward  for any extra information the author may want you to know.  

Finally, did the book answer your questions?  Pull the post-its and review what you thought was the important information just before you come to the library to take the AR quiz.

Recommended NF titles:

Biography: Good Brother, Bad Brother: The story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Boothby James Giblin

History: Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

Information: Gardens from Garbage by Judith Handelsman