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In a world rife with scams, bots and AI, reading non-fiction is more important than ever – especially for children and teenagers – and it’s set to be a big trend in the world of reading this year. There are books to pique the interest of all ages and stages, and we’re not talking about dry accounts of historical events here. We’re talking about gripping, relevant books written for a young audience to really get stuck into covering just about any topic you can think of. This week on School Stream, explore the benefits of non-fiction and share an extensive, but by no means exhaustive, list of engaging non-fiction works for young readers. 

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Children and Teens are Hardwired for Non-Fiction

“When they assigned The Diary of Anne Frank at school, I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was no way Luce would read it. I can barely get her to read anything as it is. But she sat on the couch and read it so intensely, and now she wants more books like this. I was amazed! – Mother of a year 9 student.

On the surface non-fiction might feel like a counter-intuitive fit for children and teens but, if we think about it, non-fiction is most often the first introduction to the wonderful world of words. Books about construction equipment, farms, food, school and other daily activities are common topics explored in first books for toddlers, so we shouldn’t be too surprised when enthusiasm for non-fiction carries through to the secondary school years. There’s data to back this up too. Studies show that given the choice, kids reading for pleasure chose non-fiction 40% of the time. An earlier (US-based) study showed that this doubles to 80% when applied to Year 1 readers. It’s the non-fiction to literacy pipeline in action!

Why reading non-fiction is important.

In a world where 89% of Australians are worried about fake news and misinformation and AI is developing at pace, the skills developed through reading non-fiction are priceless. Reading non-fiction supports the development of critical thinking and research skills, introduces the tenants of complex thought, builds academic vocabulary, demonstrates how to use evidence to prove (or disprove) a theory, connects students to real-world questions and content, assists in cross-curricular learning and exposes students to a range of text structures not found in fiction.

Some suggestions to get you started (and where to find more)

Without further ado, here are some resources to help you navigate the vibrant and dynamic world of nonfiction for all ages and stages. From Pre-K12, we’ve got you covered.

Non-fiction Titles for Pre-Schoolers

Nature, daily routines, the world of work, family life and play are the foundation of many preschool books. Whether your young bookworms are guiding themselves through a board book with vibrant colours or listening at quiet time, there’s sure to be something here.

The Red-Eyed Free Frog (Joy Crowley)

Andy Warhol’s Colors (Andy Warhol)

Beware of the Crocodile (Martin Jenkins)

Little People, Big Dreams – Series

A Butterfly is Patient and An Egg is Quiet (Diana Aston and Sylvia Long)

Slow Down (Rachel Williams)

I Want to Be an Astronaut (Byron Barton)

Busy Beaks (Sarah Allen)

Tiny Tradies (Tami Sussman and Tom Jellett)

Non-fiction Titles for Primary School Students

Once more there is an overwhelming range of non-fiction on offer from primary school children. This list is a small reflection of the types of books available, but there is plenty here for all kinds of readers at all levels.

So She Did: The Story of May Wurth (Simi Genziuk)

Life Lessons for Little Ones: You Are Enough (Jess Sanders, illustrated by Ocean Hughes)

Darwin’s Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular (Polly Owen)

An Atlas of Lost Kingdoms: Discover Mythical Lands, Lost Cities and Vanished Islands (Emily Hawkins)

The Brainiac’s Guide to Climate and Weather (Rosie Cooper)

Looking After Country with Fire: Aboriginal Burning Knowledge With Uncle Kuu (Victor Steffensen)

Become an App Inventor. The Official Guide from MIT App Inventor (Karen Lang and Selim Tezel)

The Art and Life of Hilma af Klint (Ylva Hillström, Karin Eklund)

The Museum of Useless (Rachel Poliquin, Clayton Hanmer (illus.) Body Parts: A Tour of Your Body’s Leftovers, Flaws and Other Weird Bits (Rachel Poliquin, (illus.Clayton Hanmer)

What If? (Randall Munroe)  

Where to go for more non-fiction book ideas for preschool and primary school readers: Book Week resources, local libraries, social media and, of course, your colleagues.

Non-fiction Titles for Secondary School Students

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does demonstrate the abundance of riches on offer in the non-fiction world for teenage readers. There is something for everyone here. The links below will take you to more information about each title and, in some cases, to more titles worth exploring if you’re looking to expand your non-fiction collection.

For the scientifically minded

Blood, Bullets and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA (Bridget Heos)

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death (Caitlin Doughty)

Grand Theft Horse (Greg Neri)  

For History Buffs and Memoirists

Every Falling Star (Sungju Lee)

Welcome to Country Schools Edition (Marsha Langton)

Flowers in the Gutter. The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers who Resisted the Nazis (K.R.Gaddy)

Ben Pobjie – Error Australis, 100 Tales from Australia’s Most Haunted Places, 100 Weirdest Tales from Australia and Mad Dogs and Thunderbolts.

For Creative Sparks and Young Philosophers

The Movie Book – Big Ideas Explained Simply (DK)

The Fire Never Goes Out (ND Stevenson)

Big Ideas for Curious Minds (School of Life),

For Young Entrepreneurs and Go-Getters

Shoe Dog – A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Young Readers Edition) (Phil Knight)

Yes She Can: 10 Stories of Hope & Change from Young Female Staffers of the Obama White House

Where to go for more ideas: Ask your students, check out #BookTok (84 billion views and counting!), Good Reads, or look at online blogs targeted at YA (Young Adult) readers – many have great reading lists that cover the world of non-fiction for this cohort.

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