The local newspaper this week ran a story about the Common Core. The Common Core is a set of educational standards that 48 states, and the District of Columbia, have adopted as their educational standards. Love it or hate it the Common Core is here to stay (at least in the short term) and will impact your child's education. One of the main drives of the Common Core is to increase the amount of nonfiction reading students do. While English teachers are feeling the burden, and feeling like they have to cut out some of the beloved pieces of literature, the idea behind the Common Core is that ALL subject areas would increase the amount of reading students are doing. Thus the burden, in theory, shouldn't fall on the English teachers. (In practise time will tell how well that will work, but that's the idea behind the increase in nonfiction reading.)
As parents however, we can do our teachers a HUGE favor by getting our children used to reading nonfiction at an early age. I'll confess, when I envision reading to my son I certainly don't picture sitting down with him to read a manual about auto-repair or an essay about the different between an apple and a pear, but there are plenty of great, fun, and simple ways to increase the amount of nonfiction a child is exposed to. Here are just two ideas.
1) Read article from a newspaper (or an online news source). I know I'm probably a bit old fashioned since I still subscribe to a newspaper, but I enjoy my subscription. With older kids (4th grade on up) read an interesting newspaper article together and discuss the article. (USA Today, for example is written on a 4th grade reading level.) It can make for some great dinner time conversations and if you pick the right articles it won't feel like an assignment it'll just feel like an interesting conversation. You can always modify this by reading the article out loud if your child can't understand the article when (s)he reads it him/herself. Many of the benefits will still be there for your child.
2) Get your child a subscription to a great nonfiction magazine. Is there anything more fun than getting a magazine in the mail!? There is a magazine out there to suit your child's interests and they make magazines for any reading level these days. Even preschoolers can get a subscription to Ranger Rick Jr (ages 4-7) , which is published by the National Wildlife Federation. As a bonus, there are no ads in this magazine! Just pages of great content and beautiful pictures sure to interest the budding naturalist in your life. Got a kid who loves to travel and wants to be a global explorer? How about getting them hooked on FACES Magazine. There are so many other great magazines out there. I could probably do a month's worth of posts on the magazines that I love that feature nonfiction writing. If you're looking for other ideas be sure to check out the Cricket family of publications. They really publish some amazing magazines for children and teens.
There are millions of ways to introduce your child to nonfiction and to show them that it doesn't have to mean reading out of a textbook. A love of reading starts at home, and that includes a love of nonfiction too!