The stories that dazzle young children and the conversations that follow are irreplaceable as building blocks for their understandings of the world and the people who inhabit it. Due to children’s fictional framework, storybooks’ surprises, delightful narrations with lifelike or imagined characters and their ever-fresh challenges are all possible.
There are more than 50 distinct kinds of fictional books that children can enjoy, from familiar fairy tales to mysteries, from fantasies to science fiction, from history to suspense, from biographies, to plays, poetry, and humor, to myths, legends, and more. This variety is why fictional books are so powerful. They are unlimited in the range of possibilities of characters, events, places and the experiences presented in them that expand children’s sense of their own possibilities for life and for their futures. A critical lesson here for children is that they’ll never, EVER run out of new books to choose from at the book store or library.
However, the massive collection of imaginative books doesn’t include even half of the possibilities of book reading for young children. The range of nonfiction books is every bit as vast and unquestionably as surprising, delightful and enriching as imaginative tales that children and their families typically encounter. Reading about science, history, existing natural phenomena and explorations of real humans encountering real events is just as available and can be every bit as engaging for small children.
Note that I’m not talking about textbooks, which are helpful “training” books designed to guide groups of children in systematic learning about various academic and intellectual disciplines. Textbooks present principles of mathematics, the sciences, history, sociology, psychology, economics, health, the arts, second languages and all the rest, offering children paths forward in their formal educations.
The nonfiction books I’m talking about are self-selected by children to engage their curiosity about unique cultures and their cuisines, the range of emotions and social encounters possible through vacation and travel, fascinating toys and games, sports and parts of lifelong healthy living, every kind of creature and organism, technology, the seasons, climates, and so much more. These kinds of books about reality add immeasurable value to a child’s development.
So I encourage parents and teachers to expand their book recommendations for young children beyond fun stories. Consider adding fascinating factual books that will help them wonder, explore and inquire about the entirety of the real world and the possibilities it offers to them.