Many of the benefits of reading non-fiction books with children are right on the surface. Children are exposed to labels, timelines, charts, and graphs. A non-fiction book teaches new vocabulary and concepts. Additionally, children are encountering material that is similar to what they have or will experience in reading textbooks in school. I view all these benefits as secondary to a non-fiction book's ability to spark a meaningful conversation between an adult and a child.
My children love checking out beginning-reader-books at the library. My son will find easy-readers about Star Wars and super heroes. My daughter will find more advanced readers about fairies and princesses. This week, I searched the library for many of Seymour Simon's See More Readers books
-- Big Bugs
, Amazing Aircraft
, Emergency Vehicles
, Cool Cars
, Danger! Volcanoes
and Knights and Castles
. Many of these books became favorite choices of my children for before bedtime reading. As I read to them, they would stop me on just about every page to make a comment or ask a question. It was as if my children were trying to outdo each other with their knowledge. Often, I was able to add a story about current event or an experience that I have had.
My wife was surprised by the conversations I was having with my young children and said quite a few times this week, "What were you guys talking about up there?" One time I responded "Deep-sea robots." We talked about the important role that deep-sea robots played in the BP Gulf oil spill. My children were nodding as if they understood that deep-sea robots allow us to do tasks underwater that divers are unable to do. Then my son said, "Dad, scuba divers CAN go to the bottom of the ocean. If there is a fire down on the bottom of the ocean, the scuba divers will go down to the bottom and say, 'Stop, Fish!' (he emphatically puts his hand up in the air) and then put out the fire. Then, the fish are safe." I think that statement by my 3-year-old son was a combination of a few non-fiction books we have recently read -- volcanoes and emergency vehicles. It shows that he is trying to connect all the information that he has learned through reading and conversing about the books.
After this week I am making a commitment to having at least one non-fiction book as a part of our before bedtime reading. In addition to all the obvious benefits, the books will continue to strengthen my bond with my children that has grown through our routine for reading.
I had the pleasure of meeting Seymour Simon, "The Dean of Science Books for Children" (NY Times) who has written over 250 science books, and his wife Liz Nealon at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference in July. It was an inspiration to observe their passion for helping children understand their world through quality books and various media (website, apps, blog, e-books, etc.).
-Click Here to Read More and enter to win his new book-