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Summer Reading With Five Kinds of Nonfiction Children’s Books

As the school year winds down, it’s a perfect time to get into the summer reading mindset. Some kids might look forward to diving into their favorite chapter books, and some kids might need a little extra help to find just the right book. Nonfiction titles are a great option for engaging reluctant readers, and come in a variety of styles.  

What defines a nonfiction book? Well, first and foremost, a nonfiction book is a book that is informational. But over the years, the scope of nonfiction has grown beyond the standard “all-about” informational texts to include how-to books, picture books and encyclopedias. The field has grown so massive that one nonfiction author, Melissa Stewart, came up with a framework to help categorize all of these books, referred to as the “Five Kinds of Nonfiction.” This system uses five different categories: traditional nonfiction, browsable nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, expository nonfiction, and active nonfiction. Let’s take a look at each category, and explore the benefits each can offer. 

Traditional Nonfiction: 

These are the kinds of survey books which might come to mind when you think of nonfiction. They contain straightforward information about a specific topic, and may contain photographs, charts or scientific illustration. They often include organizational elements that can help the reader to locate specific information, such as a table of contents, a glossary, or an index.


These books take a literary approach to a topic, usually focusing on a concept and sharing it in a fun and engaging manner. The author’s voice is present in these books, as is innovation in its approach to a subject. These nonfiction books can be great for introducing new concepts to readers. 

Browsable Nonfiction: 

If you have a reader who loves to absorb information in quick bursts, browsable nonfiction is perfect. These books work well for older readers, especially those who are reluctant or emerging. Because the information is presented in short paragraphs, these books can adjust to a reader’s attention span, and the subject matter can appeal to a wide range of ages. These books lend themselves to whole class or small group sharing as well. 

Narrative Nonfiction: 

This style is used to tell about an event or life experience, whether about an animal or as a biography. This gives the reader a chance to be immersed in the experience, and to provide emotional context to an event. These books can also be “call to action” texts, with the goal of inspiring the reader. 

Active Nonfiction: 

For kids who are more physically oriented, active nonfiction is a way to combine reading with creation. STEM guides for experiments and coding fit into this category, as do those how-to books for everything from juggling to crafting techniques. Many of these titles have short projects, and can be great for engaging reluctant readers, as the goal is not just to finish the text, but to apply the information to the real world.  

No matter which nonfiction style your reader is drawn to, I encourage your whole family to sign up for CLP’s Summer Reading program. For an extra challenge, try to read one title from each of the five kinds of nonfiction!

Check out these resources for further learning: 

You can sign up for a free library card here. If you are new to our eResources, check out these tutorial videos on how to get started.

Looking for a good book, album, movie or TV show? We’re happy to recommend them to you! Use this Personalized Recommendations form to send us some information about what you like and we’ll curate a list just for you.

If you have any additional questions, you can contact a librarian through FacebookInstagram or Twitter. You can also call us at 412.622.3114 or email us at

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