Using Children’s Books to Teach Non-Fiction Writing

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Expository writing is a key skill for students to learn as it is the most common form of writing that they will use as they progress through the education system and into the workforce.

Steward and Young (2019) suggest that children’s books can be a useful resource for teaching students this skill and suggest the following strategies.

  1. Experiment with format.

  • Investigate non-fiction books that use different formats to convey the information.
  • Discuss the similarities and differences between the formats.
  • Discuss the authors’ purpose and audience and how this might influence the format selection.
  • Discuss how the different elements (e.g., tables, text boxes, headings and sub-headings, graphs, pictures, etc.) guide the reader and adds to their knowledge.
  • Encourage students to choose an innovative format to present their knowledge of a chosen topic.
  1. Experiment with text structure.

    Identify the following structures within selected children’s books. Ask students to rewrite the same information using each of these structures:

  • Sequence.
  • Cause and effect.
  • Problem and solution.
  • Compare and contrast.
  1. Choose a non-fiction voice.

  • Discuss the voice used in the chosen books and how the chosen voice relates to audience – this might range from lively and lyrical to staid and technical.
  • Use Venn diagrams to compare and contrast the characteristics of the different voices used.
  • Ask students to rewrite the same information using different voices.
  1. Appreciate rich language.

  • Working in pairs or small groups, have students identify key language features (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, alliteration, repetition, metaphors, etc.) in a given text – using coloured highlighters or markers can be useful.
  • Discuss the impact each of these elements has on the text.
  • Working with a partner, students include similar literary devices in their own writing.


Stewart, M. & Young, T.A. ( 2019). Teaching the Key Traits of Expository Nonfiction With Children’s Books. The Reading Teacher, 72( 5), 648– 651.