Nonfiction to the Rescue, Part 1

As a children’s librar­i­an, a pri­ma­ry goal for me is to help chil­dren embrace imag­i­na­tion through books, from imag­in­ing we are super­heroes to going on a hunt to find a bear, fly­ing in the sky, explor­ing a new land, to div­ing deep in the ocean. For some time how­ev­er, includ­ing non­fic­tion titles in my pro­grams has been a top request from par­ents and edu­ca­tors. This encour­ages me to include them even more than I already do. My arti­cle this month begins a three-part series on how to use non­fic­tion books in sto­ry­time. For this arti­cle, I focus on how to pre­pare your pro­gram to include non­fic­tion books. In addi­tion, I offer you a selec­tion of books to con­sid­er using.

Child imagination

Connecting the dots with nonfiction

After near­ly 15 years devel­op­ing sto­ry­time pro­grams, I real­ize that the plan I design for the pro­gram will not always be the pro­gram that chil­dren and fam­i­lies expe­ri­ence. On paper, I have con­trol of the books, songs, activ­i­ties, and tran­si­tions I include. How­ev­er, the audi­ence of chil­dren who attend the pro­gram also helps guide the pro­gram, and many times helps to shift the pro­gram in a new direc­tion. They do this by the ques­tions they ask or the obser­va­tions they see. Includ­ing non­fic­tion books in your pro­gram will help you to con­nect with chil­dren fur­ther. How do you do this? Fol­low these steps:

  1. Lis­ten to the ques­tions and obser­va­tions from the chil­dren who attend your pro­gram. This will help guide you in select­ing non­fic­tion titles.
  2. Gen­er­ate a con­ver­sa­tion when read­ing pic­ture books by ask­ing ques­tions such as: “how many of you have seen?” or “how many of you have been to?” or “have you heard about?” or “have you ever won­dered about?” and “has a grownup every read to you about?”
  3. Have a moment after the pro­gram to dis­cov­er what chil­dren are inter­est­ed in learn­ing. This depends on the age of the chil­dren in atten­dance and input from par­ents is a part of the mix. Know­ing this infor­ma­tion will help you in your selec­tion process.

Using nonfiction books in your program

So how do you use non­fic­tion in sto­ry­time? In my expe­ri­ence, there are two approaches.

Approach #1: Con­nect with the theme of the pro­gram. Adding a theme to sto­ry­time is a great approach when you are new to plan­ning or need to devel­op some­thing quick­ly. For exam­ple, if the theme is boats you would locate non­fic­tion books about boats or ships or ship expe­di­tions. As you devel­op your skills, feel free to include non­fic­tion titles that do not relate to the theme.

Approach #2: This allows for more free­dom and flex­i­bil­i­ty. It is the approach I use most often: the selec­tion of titles is not based on a spe­cif­ic theme. Instead, you are intro­duc­ing rec­om­mend­ed non­fic­tion titles to chil­dren and fam­i­lies. You can start off the pro­gram with songs, tran­si­tion to an activ­i­ty, and then begin read­ing a non­fic­tion sto­ry. Toward the end of the ses­sion, ask the ques­tions dis­cussed in Con­nect­ing the Dots. In par­tic­u­lar, I like to ask chil­dren “how many of you would like to learn more about…?”

How do you read nonfiction books in storytime?

Take into con­sid­er­a­tion the age of the audi­ence, the length of your pro­gram, the atten­tion span of the chil­dren dur­ing the pro­gram, and books of inter­est. When I read a non­fic­tion book, it is not text heavy, the pic­tures are big, and the text encour­ages audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion. As always, remem­ber the impor­tance of pic­tures and use them to tell relate what the chil­dren are see­ing, per­haps con­nect­ing to a sto­ry they might have heard. If I include a non­fic­tion book with heavy text, I focus on the pic­tures, cap­tions, and quick facts. Pre­view­ing the book pri­or to the pro­gram is also impor­tant so you are pre­pared to share the facts efficiently.

For now, I leave you with this infor­ma­tion and will focus on non­fic­tion selec­tion in my next article. 

My top picks for nonfiction in storytime

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3 years ago

I love see­ing the books you rec­om­mend. There’s a lot of vari­ety here.