How to Get Fiction Lovers Interested in Nonfiction

There are two kinds of people in this world.  Those who prefer to read fiction and those who perfer nonfiction.

Think about it.

Some of us naturally prefer reading fiction (me) while others naturally prefer nonfiction (husband, eldest daughter).  For those that are naturally inclined to nonfiction, they will read voraciously in that genre without needing much encouragement.

I once taught a 5th grader who only read the encyclopedia.  Getting her to read a novel was incredibly challenging! (Impossible, actually. She’s a lawyer now.)

What kind of reader are you? What about your kids?

It’s good for us, kids included, to read outside our preferred genre.

Make Non-Fiction Cool To Fiction Lovers

Get books with great photographs.
Seriously.  If the book has photographs – not drawings – it’s so much more engaging to readers!  Plus, a book with borders, different colors or backgrounds appeal to young readers.

Watch text to picture ratio.
If there is a ton of text crammed into a page, it’s not appealing to read. Look for books with not too many words all crammed together.  Look for text boxes and blank space on the page. That’s less intimidating and way more exciting to read.

Pick something your child is interested in.
I only read non-fiction books in which I’m interested. I just cannot motivate to read the history books my husband enjoys. Same for your kids, right?

nonfictionTeach features of non-fiction
It’s often helpful to teach kids about the features of non-fiction books.  Unlike fiction novels, non-fiction books don’t have to be read cover to cover.  Teach about

–          Table of Contents

–          Glossary

–          Index

–          Titles and headings

–          Bold words

–          Captions

–          Charts and diagrams

Start with that and let me know how it goes!  Have fun – and remember, reading non-fiction is good for us adults, too!

Photo credit: osiatynska / / CC BY-NC-ND

Why Kids Need to Read Nonfiction


  1. says

    The more pictures the better! You are so right about that. My daughter loves to get the “anatomy” books in her school library. She is more interested in looking at the pictures than having us tell her what the text says.

  2. says

    Great point about what I call “the white space” aspect of a book. Wonderful nonfiction for kids has interesting snippets that add to the main feature, in text boxes as you said or woven onto the page in interesting ways. Readers who are daunted by dense text in say a middle grade chapter book might be much more inclined to try a nonfiction book or magazine.

  3. says

    It’s one of the differences between the sexes.
    Men will happily read an instruction manual about internal combustion engines while women will prefer a story about relationships.
    Research with juvenile monkeys shows that the males will choose to play with a toy car and the females with a dolly. Ignore this at your peril!

  4. says

    My brother and I were definitely opposites when it came to reading as children. He preferred non-fiction and especially enjoyed reading informational magazines like Popular Science and car magazines. He devoured my parent’s Family Health book and learned all about strange diseases. I spent all of my time reading fiction…although some of the historical fiction I read was based on true events and could almost pass for non-fict.

  5. says

    Thanks for posting your experiences, Janelle and Terry.
    John, I disagree that it’s separation of the sexes — that is overgeneralizing. I know a large number of grown men who read graphic fiction novels and women who only read non-fiction.
    Lasonya, thank you for your kind words.
    Susan, as always, you’re such a thoughtful reader, thank you.
    We are fortunate to have such a nice literacy community here! Thanks, everyone who has commented so far.

  6. says

    I would agree that to say that this is a gender divide is a bit of an overgeneralization (though there are certainly tendencies in that direction). Me, I’ve always been all about fiction – the bigger and more complex the story, the better. But I do appreciate the tips!

  7. says

    I like the reminder that nonfiction books do not need to be read cover to cover! We can pick and choose, browse, study, etc., unlike fiction! Thank you!

  8. says

    Great post. I am actually both a fiction and a nonfiction reader. I do tend to gravitate more towards NF though just from my desire to learn and my insatiable curiosity. However, I have been challenging myself to read more fiction this year and have found there can be things to learn from fiction, too, especially historical fiction (if you know what is fact and what is story).


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