The Importance of Non Fiction Text

For many years narrative texts were the primary texts used in early childhood and primary classrooms. It was believed that young students could not learn from expository texts and that a natural progression from narrative to expository text should follow children as they progressed through school. These beliefs have been challenged by many leading researchers and more and more informational texts have been finding their way into primary literacy programs. Many researchers now believe that exposure to non fiction texts in the primary grades helps students to prepare for the increased amount of informational texts that they are exposed to beginning in fourth grade. Additionally, it is believed that non fiction exposure in the primary grades increases information literacy skills, thus creating more skilled readers and researchers in the upper grades.

  • Teaching with Non Fiction Text: Key Concepts

Non fiction text availability

The availability of high quality non fiction trade books and other informational text is a necessity in all classrooms. Publishers, websites, and annotated bibliographies are available in many of the sources provided.

Best practices in non fiction text instruction

Teacher modeling and strategy instruction through activities such as DLTA (directed listening and thinking activity), use of various graphic organizers, read a loud, book talking, and paired fiction and non fiction texts are all highly effective practices to be used in primary and early childhood classroms.


Teacher and teacher librarians must display non fiction texts throughout their spaces. Book talks for non fiction texts can be highly effective in promoting reading and enjoyment of the genre. Non fiction author studies enable students to connect with informational texts on a deeper level.

Non Fiction Text - Professional Resources


Capstone Press
Pebble Books is a division of Capstone Press. They offer non fiction texts at the emergent reader level covering a wide variety of subjects. The books contain all the typical features of a non fiction text and can be used with struggling readers in the intermediate grades.

Heinemann Library
Heinemann-Raintree publishing company offers a wide variety of high quality non fiction texts. Non fiction text features are exhibited in texts for primary through secondary students. Their site can be searched by content area state learning standards.

Scholastic provides a 5 day unit plan for introducing non fiction to second through fourth graders (adaptable up or down). The unit plan includes objectives, standards, and graphic organizers. Students have an opportunity to discuss the genre, compare it to fiction reading, generate a list of non fiction text features, read, and respond to a piece of non fiction text. The lessons will kick off a non fiction unit with students or could easily be adapted to for use with other materials and lesson combinations.

Read, Write, Think
This lesson plan entitled “Traveling Terrain: Comprehending Nonfiction Text on the Web” presents teachers with a perfect combination of information literacy skills and non fiction text comprehension skills. Students are asked to identify non fiction text features as seen on an informational web page, to find information on that web page, and to construct meaning form that information. Graphic organizers and working links are included.

Time For Kids,28171,1710673,00.html
This website contains non fiction material from the print magazine. Articles and paired with lesson plans and graphic organizers. All resources are grouped by grade level (k-2, 2-3, 4-6). While many articles are available online there are many more lessons available to pair with the print edition of the magazine

Journal Articles

Camp, D. (2000). It takes two: Teaching with twin texts of fact and fiction. The Reading Teacher, 53 (5), 400-408. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from Academic search premier database.

Teaching with paired non fiction and fiction texts has been promoted by researchers and publishing companies alike. In her article Camp provides a rationale for paired text or “twin text” teaching. Twin texts as described by Camp are a pair of texts, one fiction and one non fiction, that cover the same topic. Twin texts facilitate comprehension of the topic by introducing students to vocabulary and providing background knowledge through the fiction piece before reading the non fiction text. The article provides a sample list of twin texts and examples of how several comprehension strategies such as DLTA, KWL, webbing, and Venn diagrams can be used when teaching with twin texts.

Duke, N. K. (2000). 3.6 minutes per day: The scarcity of informational texts in first grade. Reading Research Quarterly, 35 (2), 202-224. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from JSTOR database.

Duke introduces her article by citing that the ability to read, write, interpret, and evaluate non fiction text is a key component to information literacy. The study conducted recorded the amount of time spent with and the availability of informational texts in primary classrooms. The average amount of time spent with informational text was 3.6 minutes per day. Duke cites the lack of exposure to non fiction texts in the primary grades as having a negative impact on reading ability and achievement in other curricular areas once children reach fourth grade and above. Duke concludes with suggestions for increasing the amount of attention paid to informational text in the primary classrooms.

Loertscher, D. (2007). Nonfiction texts and achievement. Teacher Librarian, 35 (1), 37. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from Academic search premier database.

David Loertscher provides teacher librarians with a brief look at the research regarding the importance of reading and comprehending nonfiction in elementary schools. He also provides a list of “how to” activities for teacher librarians to incorporate nonfiction text in their programs and to encourage students to read and write non fiction texts. This would also be a good article to share with administration when asking for funds to expand the non fiction section of your library.

Palmer, R. G., & Stewart, R. A. (2003). Nonfiction trade book use in primary grades. The Reading Teacher, 57(1), 38-48.

The article examines the use of non fiction trade books in primary (1-3rd) classrooms. Four main reasons for using non fiction texts in the primary classroom were discussed: student engagement with and preference for non fiction text, existing bodies of research which advocate for use of expository text, trends towards thematic curriculum and trade book use in content areas, and that combined content area, reading, and writing instruction create intrinsic motivation to read. The researchers worked with both classroom teachers and a teacher librarian to carry out their research and analyze their results.

Yopp, H. K., & Yopp, R. H. (2000). Sharing informational text with young children. The Reading Teacher, 53 (5), 410-423. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from Academic search premier database.

Yopp and Yopp begin by citing the lack of exposure to informational texts in the primary grades as having a direct negative affect on students’ literacy in later years. They focus on the differences between non fiction and fiction text structure and features and offer five different ways to incorporate non fiction materials into a primary grade literacy program. Before, during, and after reading activities are provided for use with a variety of alphabet informational books. An annotated bibliography of alphabet books in also provided.


gotcha_for_guys.jpgBaxter, K. A., & Kochel, M. A. (2006). Gotcha for guys!: Nonfiction books to get boys excited about reading. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Gotcha for Guys is an excellent resource for teacher librarians containing more than 1000 non fictions titles. Titles are appropriate for grades 3-8 (many are adaptable to the lower grades) and were chosen from successful book talks and positive review journals. While the titles do have guy appeal the recommended titles would appeal to both genders. Baxter divides this book into ten topical sections (magic, U.S.history, science, etc.) which are then divided into three categories. The “new and notable” sections contain full book talks with citations, the “not to be missed” section contains older books with citations (it is noted if a book talk is available in an older Gotcha text), the “worth reading” sections only contain citations. Also recommended are the three other Gotcha texts covering book talks for non fiction trade books.

pairing_non_fiction.jpgCamp, D. (2006). Pairing fiction & nonfiction: Strategies to build comprehension in the content areas. New York City, NY: Scholastic.

This book provides teacher librarians with a quick reference guide to lessons and activities that will increase student interest and engagement in almost any content area through the use of non fiction texts. Camp discusses the benefits of using paired fiction and non fiction books when teaching in the content areas. Teacher librarians naturally use trade books to support classroom curriculum; this text provides a researched based rationale as well as comprehension strategies which will improve this practice. A bibliography of paired texts is provided at the end as well as suggestions for how to create good matches.

reading_and_wriing_informational_text.jpgDuke, N. K., & Bennett-Armstrong, V. S. (2003). Reading & writing informational text in the primary grades. New York: Scholastic Teaching Resources.

This text will support teachers and teacher librarians as they begin to use research based practices to incorporate non fiction text into their primary classrooms and programs. The authors begin by providing rational for the inclusion of informational text in the primary grades. Reading a loud and shared reading of informational text are discussed. Strategies are provided for helping students to create meaning while reading and listening. Teachers will easily be able to scaffold their students to independent reading and meaning making with the activities provided. Suggestions are also included on how to improve and encourage informational text reading at home.

nonfitcion_matters.jpgHarvey, S. (1998). Nonfiction matters reading, writing, and research in grades 3-8. York, Me: Stenhouse Publishers.

Stephanie Harvey is one of the leading reading teacher researchers. She has many books which emphasize the importance of making our thinking explicit during modeling and guided practice in order to help our students become better at comprehending. The strategies included in this book are aimed at 3-8th grade but they can be adapted for lower grades. Harveyfocuses on reading, comprehension, and writing of expository text. Her approach is project based and could easily find a place in a library media program. A non fiction bibliography (older titles) is included.

nonfiction_author_studies.jpgJenkins, C. B., & White, D. (2007). Nonfiction author studies in the primary classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Jenkins presents the time tested activity of author study in the classroom but does so with a twist – she uses the genre of non fiction. An introduction, including research, provides the basis for non fiction author studies. Units and lesson plans are shared from several classroom teachers; five well known non fiction authors are highlighted including Gail Gibbons and Jean Fritz. The book gives teacher librarians a “how to” guide so that they can easily begin non fiction author studies in their own libraries.


think_nonfiction.jpgSheen Editorial Inc. (2003). Think nonfiction! [Motion picture]. USA: Stenhouse.

This half hour video is perfect for the visual learner. Teacher researchers Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis model what non fiction reading and comprehension looks and sounds like in a primary classroom. A Time for Kids article is used with a second grade class. Use this video to reflect and improve upon on your teaching practices when working with non fiction texts.

Naviganavigation_informational_text.jpgNavigating Informational Text. Heinemann. Linda Hoyt. VHS. 2003.
Linda Hoyt presents teachers with easy to follow models and strategies for incorporating non fiction text into their classrooms. This series contains three videos which cover non fiction comprehension strategies, ways to use non fiction within guided reading groups, and how non fiction texts can be used within literature circles. The videos show snapshots and lessons from real classrooms and would be a valuable addition to any professional development library.

Non Fiction Book Lists

The National Council of Teachers of English sponsors an annual award, Orbis Pictus, for outstanding non fiction titles for children. Links to lists of award winning titles are in the upper left hand corner.

Non fiction read aloud bibliography compiled by Jan McCall in 2005. The bibliography included great titles, teaching points and topics for each book. -

Seven excellent NF book suggestions from a mom and librarian.