Not all non-fiction books have textual features, but for books with textual features, understanding them can greatly affect a reader’s comprehension, so it’s important that we teach children non-fiction textual features to improve their comprehension.
Nonfiction books that contain textual features are traditional nonfiction, browsable nonfiction, and active nonfiction.I am using the categories found in 5 types of nonfiction Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correa.
traditional documentary are fact-based non-fiction books on specific topics.
Browsable Nonfiction is a book that you don’t have to read in any particular order.
Active Nonfiction is a book that shares programs like a craft book.
Teaching kids about these nonfiction books requires them to use comprehension strategies in different ways.
It is important that children access their background knowledge, determine what is important, ask questions, infer and synthesize – to help them understand the text they are reading.
However, since text is different from fiction, teach the characteristics of non-fiction before you start reading so they can use those textual characteristics to support their understanding.
Nonfiction Text Features
Pay attention to the following text features and teach your child the importance of each feature. You can take a “text walk” through this book, covering a few things at a time.
(use simple and well-written books on any topic because you’re not teaching content, just functionality)
- title and subtitle
Let the reader practice noticing these textual features Text Feature Scavenger Hunt!
Here’s a scavenger hunt you can print out. (Other scavenger hunts ask for examples from the text – I don’t think the examples would fit in a small column space, so I didn’t do that, but you can have readers write them in their reading notebooks.)
The printable scavenger hunt is here
Unlike printed scavenger hunts, I also like to use sticky notes with lists or posters where you will find possible functions in the text.
See what you notice on each page. Not all books contain everything, so the sticky note method is my favorite way to notice what’s in the book you’re reading. When you’re analyzing, once your readers are proficient at finding these features, then talk about how the included features affect (help or hurt) their understanding.
Ask the following questions: How do textual features affect your understanding of the information? Can they help you visualize? Or understand a new word? How do they help you identify the most important concepts and interesting details?
It’s also helpful to discuss when the book doesn’t have what you need – either not enough to help you with the content, or not the right content. Poorly organized or poorly written books can be found to compare against those.
If you’re ready to get started, visit my List of nonfiction books for all ages.
List of nonfiction books for all ages
Short Nonfiction Books for Reluctant, Struggling, and Swinging Readers