10 ways to help your children read information books

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Getting children reading…

Many of us have amazing memories of childhood reading and can pass on favourite books and have amazing times sharing books with children. But, is the way children read changing?

If we think about a website or a article in a magazine, rarely do we start at the top and read through the whole thing – we observe the overall design of the page, we are drawn to the pieces that really interest us, we grab the information we need and if it is really relevant, then, and only then, do we jump in and read the whole thing.

So, how do children navigate this new way of reading?

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Infograhics

Getting children to explore books, particularly non-fiction, can be a challenge and they are unlikely these days to go to a dusty encyclopaedia. We need to help children navigate through websites, ensure that they are grabbing the right and relevant information and knowing when to move on and when to linger.

Children loving facts and information hasn’t gone away – just think of how many dinosaurs they can still name at a very young age. But, the way we present information has radically changed, largely for the better, with interesting, colourful infographics that allow children to get right to the centre of the information.

This month, we have been looking at some great examples of this – in books! Those old fashioned things that children think are a little bit old hat, but can be full of the most absorbing and fascinating pages…

Stephen Biesty’s Trains

This is a great example of a ‘lift the flap’ book. Amazing trains ranging from historical to futuristic, with amazing details and things to spot.

The picture is the main event here, with labels and arrows to point out details – you start at the middle of the page and then everytime you revisit the picture, something new pops out and catches your attention. Lifting the flaps is like going down a rabbit hole – you investigate things that interest you in more detail and come up with new questions.

A lovely interactive read for children who just love trains!

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T-Rex Anatomy

Pop-up books are always a favourite and combining this with the king of the dinosaurs is a great idea. Here the book not only pops up but there are layers of the picture and the information to peel back and discover more.

The pop-up grabs the attention here, there is information all over the place and as you go further in to the skull or the legs, you reveal more detailed information about muscles, abilities and power.

Allowing children to start big and go small is a key part of information reading.

Movie Maker

Learning a new skill or improving on a hobby also calls for bite sized information so that you can have a go, try again and then when you need further advice, you can come back and read in more detail.

Movie Maker has a clapper board for you to use, an instant win, sound effects and props to try out and ideas that get you started. However, the key to the pack is the Director’s Handbook – here you find the real essence of the advice, again presented in easy to digest topics.

Children will read the detail when they need it – it is a pragmatic approach to reading  – you do it on demand.

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Space Machines

When you are moving from a early reader to a more confident one, infographics are just as relevant.

Space Machines allows you to build moving models on a peg board that replicate the technology used for galactic travel – how exciting. Here, a sequence of diagrams and snippets of information give you the visual instructions to make them work. Once you have a working model, you can then go back and read some of the history behind the machine and really understand why it had to work that way.

The reason to read is as important as the reading itself – give them something to work towards and they will read to find out how to do it.

Tallest Tower Smallest Star

Reading doesn’t have to be paragraphs and chapters – children love lists, recipes, instructions and numbers as well.

This book is all about comparisons – what is the tallest waterfall, the fastest animal, the smallest hummingbird? Here, you eye darts around the page as you take in the wealth of information all at once, focusing on the things that catch your attention. You may only read one line of information or savour every word – the result is the same, you get to know new information and may well remember it in association with the picture.

Giving children rich graphics and graphical text is really exciting and books can do this better than websites sometimes – it is all about the art work.

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My First Book Of Nature

Learning about a process really lends itself to images and layout. Think about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly or the water cycle – clever layouts really help to explain the process and can cement the sequence in the mind far better than a block of text.

We love this book with it’s clear illustrations and simple pieces of text – really makes you want to go out and see what is happening in the garden.

Asking children to create their own graphic of a process also really helps to embed the sequence in their minds.

Human Geographics

Sometimes, you just need to look up a fact or find something out. However, reading around the subject is also fascinating and again can lead to a new question being asked.

This series of Geographics books are slim paperbacks bursting with information on so many topics at once. The pages start at the centre and you read in which ever order you feel like, taking in some or all of the information before moving on.

Adding statistics and percentages can really make information stand out and therefore more easily retained.

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Animal Infographic Sticker Book

Infographics don’t have to be static and the advantage of a book over a website is that you can add to and embellish pages.

This range of sticker books involve you adding the sticker to the page of information – thereby putting it into context and spotting the information that goes with the sticker.

Look out for books where you need to add in information about yourself and where you live to make a comparison, or pages that ask for your opinion or where you need to fill in the blanks – these are all about reading and creating your own infographics.

Dinosauria

Sometimes, you can sneak reading in to other fun activities!

This is a wonderful and detailed dinosaur colouring book – nobody knows what colour the dinosaurs were, so they can be any colour you like! However, the facts are known and information on their geographical location, size, diet and predetors will all add to the experience of creating your picture.

Reading is everywhere!

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Mega Meltdown

Pure information books do still exist of course and the joy is that they have been brought into the infographic approach and where we once had dull books to look at, the quality of the illustration and art work has improved so much.

This is a great example of many we could mention – stunning graphics combined with just enough information to let you imagine a long gone world whilst absorbing all the facts and information you can. Beautiful!

So, reading is everywhere, we all do it and children are getting new experiences that present information in a whole new way. Our little review of infographics for children has presented some reasons why this approach can really help – they aren’t going to replace a favourite character book or that reading under the bedclothes experience, but they can be a valuable tool in your attempts to get children reading.

Here are our top tips:

  • Reluctant readers often find information and activity books far more approachable than stories where it takes too long to get to the good bits. Stick to pertinent and bite sized chunks.
  • Think about the reason to read – if they are trying to build something, want to play a game or just know everything about a favourite animal, there is a book out there for it
  • Read everywhere – the shopping list, the bus time table, the TV guide, the instructions for putting something together
  • Create your own infographics – designing the page and identifying the key pieces of information is a task that involves really understanding the topic
  • Comment on good and bad design – children will quickly understand how websites are put together and can be quite the critic – encourage this!
  • Let children know how we read – if it is years since you picked up a good book, but you love a particular blogger, this is all relevant

We hope you have fun with your reading and find inspiration from many sources.

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