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Why is nonfiction reading important for kids?

On average, kids today spend less than 4 minutes a day reading nonfiction. Yes, 4 minutes. What can you actually read in 4 little minutes? How much can you truly understand and feel comfortable talking about later?

It is common knowledge that how much a child reads is important. Kids who read more will perform better, acquire a greater vocabulary and develop better critical thinking skills. However, what a child reads is also important. Statistics show that kids actually read an average of 25 minutes a day (which is very low compared to the 4 hours and 29 minutes a day they spend watching TV). Of those 25 minutes, just 4 are spent on nonfiction. But is that enough? How can reading nonfiction really help?

A study by Marzano underlined that nonfiction reading helps kids develop background knowledge. You might be thinking, “So what?” Well, that same study shows that background knowledge actually accounts for 33% of the variance in student achievement.

Educators now commonly assert that reading more nonfiction early on tremendously helps children reach the appropriate reading levels in later grades.  An interesting report from ACT in 2006, Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals About College Readiness in Reading, states that “the clearest differentiator in reading between students who are college ready and students who are not is the ability to comprehend complex texts.” According to experts, nonfiction is a great way for kids to develop critical thinking and analytical skills and, you guessed it, the ability to read and understand complex texts.

Common Core State Standards are now addressing the growing importance of school curricula across the United States by increasing the amount of nonfiction texts in classroom reading lessons. In the past, 80% of the texts read in class were fiction. Now, the Common Core Standards aim for reading materials to be 50% fiction and 50% nonfiction. While it could take some time for this significant change to be fully implemented at school, the shift in what children read can also come from home!

Of course, there’s no need to lock your child’s monster stories in a closet and replace them with boring textbooks! Work with them to learn what they’re interested in — whether it’s sports, science, or history — and look together for fun and interesting texts! Nonfiction is everywhere. The challenge is to find nonfiction texts that are engaging and age-appropriate for your little ones! Remember, the objective is to get them to read nonfiction daily and actually enjoy it! And while reading fiction is a great way to develop childrens’ imaginations and creativity, it’s nonfiction that sparks their curiosity and opens their minds to the world!


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