To Read or Not to Read: Fact or Fiction?


In every class and in every school there are "the readers" - children who effortlessly devour books, one after another, never seeming to lose their love of books - and then there are the "reluctant" readers, those who struggle to find a subject matter of interest or a style that they enjoy. Often the reluctant readers will hook onto a series of books that are not "on the list", but we fail to recognise that when they do this, they have cleared a massive hurdle: to read or not to read.

In our increasingly technological existence, it has undoubtedly become harder to find a quiet corner to escape to for a moment with a book. Distraction tends to be an arm's length away at most, and that distraction is not usually an e-reader, a paperback or a newspaper. With social media encroaching on all of our lives, the demands on our children's time are many and it becomes harder to carve out any time for extra reading that doesn't spring from the classroom.

As a parent of the two 'types' of reader, I speak from experience when I say DO NOT GIVE UP! The reluctant reader in my house was slow to start but both children loved being read to. I would read at supper time and at bedtime: classics like The Hobbit or Roald Dahl, poetry or a popular book like a Chris Ryan novel. And audio CDs at bedtime were encouraged too.

And then, to my surprise, when my "reluctant reader" did pick up books, what he chose surprised me: there were endless fact books and these were slowly followed by classics like Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale (aged 8), Willard Price's adventures in the wild and some Michael Morpurgo (at 9), His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (at 10), and more recently, to my amazement, Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens (at 11). That's quite a catalogue for a reluctant reader. Even if it comes much later, with this kind of evidence of the power of encouragement, you should never give up. My reluctant reader doesn't read voraciously, but ... he reads! Hallelujah!

My belief is that when there is a reluctant reader in the house, any reading is good. And while they will be encouraged to read fiction at school, and you shouldn't give up here, if they want to read non-fiction books, let them!

So this week, in my gems of wisdom ...

7 Non-Fiction Books to Encourage a Reluctant Reader to Read (like they did mine)



1. 13 Photos Children should Know (Brad Finger)

This is one of a series - chose the one that will appeal to your child, from artists, buildings, sculptures and so on. In this book, the photos include Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon and the fall of the Berlin Wall; the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. These and other history-making photographs are presented with background information on the events and people they portray. A brilliant way to boost general knowledge while kindling the interest in the written word.

2. Rarely Seen (National Geographic)

Even those who don't normally like reading will enjoy this as there is very little text and the photos speak for themselves. Page after page of truly incredible images: from volcanic lightning to giant crystals, 30,000-year-old cave art sealed from the public to animals that are among the last of their species on Earth. You should all enjoy this one.

3. The Sports Book (DK)

The ultimate guide to 200 of the world's greatest sports. Learn about the history, the rules and the players and read about the incredible techniques and tactics of the world's best competitors. For a sports fan, this is a page turner - a book to get lost in while everyone else gets stuck into their fiction!

4. A World of Information (James Brown and Richard Platt)

This visually stunning miscellany is a collection of incredible facts and figures. Do you know how many bones there are in the human body or how clouds form? What do you know about the Periodic Table or how to tie one of many different types of knots? The pages facing the drawings are filled with facts and indeed, a world of information. The whole family will want to get their hands on this and general knowledge will soar in your household. What's not to love?

 5. What’s Where in the World (DK)

Where are the most explosive volcanoes? Where is the hottest place on the planet? And where are the world's deadliest creatures? More than 80 maps showcase the best of geography, nature, history and technology. Perfect for the inquisitive mind, so any reluctant reader will not find it difficult to delve into this book to satisfy their curiosity.

6. A Really Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

Bill Bryson makes the "How?" and the "Who?" of scientific discovery easy for us all to understand. Covering the wonder and mysteries of time and space, extraordinary accidental discoveries and the fact that, somehow, the universe exists and life came to be on this wondrous planet we call home, he manages to answer many of the questions your child might want to ask. 

7.  The Picture History of Great Buildings (Gillian Clements)

Throughout history, people have overcome every challenge to create fantastic buildings through war, trade, exploration and literature. From the tombs of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs to the astonishing skyscrapers that dominate our city skylines today, this fascinating look at the history of architecture and the people who made these incredible buildings possible gives an insight into society through the ages.


We come to the end of this week's Gems of Wisdom here, and I leave you with this little video about reading.

By the way .... my 12 year old (now 15) still hasn't read any Harry Potter books - but now he has Arthur Ransome, Philip Pullman and Yuval Noah Harari under his belt, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. .... and my daughter loved Harry Potter!