Children reap many benefits from storybooks. They provide kids and their families with opportunities to discover connections with each other and enjoy the created fictions by imaginative and insightful authors. Nonfiction books can complement fictitious stories, guiding children to explore and engage with the world, the heavens, the universe, and all of the creatures and peoples that are beyond young children’s direct experiences.
In schools and public libraries it seems there is an imbalance favoring stories and literature that delightfully tell of what MIGHT BE for wide-eyed children, over books featuring the accurate reporting of verifiable information with captivating real world images that bring into focus what actually IS.
While objections may be raised that there is something wrong in reading a story about a pig out on a fanciful adventure, there is everything right with age-appropriate, detailed books about pigs or other interesting animals, about the people and customs of communities much different from a kid’s own, or about the accomplishments of people who have made lasting contributions to the world.
One of the very best gains that can be reaped from reading books about real people and things comes from how such books provide views of life beyond children’s own homes and neighborhoods. Nonfiction books invite kids to consider the “what ifs” in their own lives and the amazing variety in their possible futures. By reading a picture book on the inner workings of the solar system, an article about a new volcano, or a feature about a dangerous virus cell can position even very young children to expand their understanding of life and the complexity of the universe and their place in both.
The lessons of what’s actually possible, found in nonfiction books, may also be sprinkled with imagined predictions, built upon factual research and focused learning, through the visions of authors and artists depicting complexity in life in a manner that young children can understand and appreciate.
Many children of the 21st Century will grow up and have careers where they are called upon to compose factual documents, reports and correspondence.
It has been said that if one wishes to write something well, they should focus on “reading and reflecting upon hundreds of excellent examples of those kinds of documents.” Consequently, encouraging children to read excellent nonfiction books by authors who understand young readers and the subject matter they will find compelling is essential to ensuring kids’ success in communicating their experiences, growing expertise and well-founded thoughts as their lives unfold.