Elementary Reading: Learning the Difference Between Fiction and Non-fiction

Children often struggle to understand the difference between various forms of writing. Read on to learn how to help your child understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction works.

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If a student fails to understand the reasoning behind the reading, they will not fully develop their reading comprehension skills or be able to glean all of the pertinent information from the text. You can help your student distinguish between fiction and non-fiction and to understand the use of each kind of writing.

One way to actively help your student understand the differences between fiction and non-fiction is to discuss these kinds of books with each other. As you talk about the differences between the two writing styles, make a poster that outlines the details. This will help cement the facts in your child's mind and will serve as a handy reference. Information that will help your child understand the differences between these two writing styles include:

  • Fact versus fiction: Non-fiction texts tend to focus on events or ideas that actually took place. While they are not always accurate of even truthful, it is also not their deliberate intent to fabricate a story.
  • Characters: Non-fiction tends to be about real people, either living or dead.
  • Setting: Non-fiction texts take place only in real places in the past or present. If a book talks about a fake place or a futuristic period, then it is fiction.

After discussing the differences between fiction and non-fiction with your elementary school student, make sure they have a variety of both genres available to read. Establish specific reading times with your child and alternate between fiction and non-fiction. The more your young child is exposed to each type of writing, the more they will understand the differences between them. When reading with your elementary student, ask questions that will help them investigate each style.

Suggested Questions

  • When and where does this story take place?
  • Who are the main characters? Are/were they real people, if so, what else do you know about them?
  • What is the main conflict in this story? How does this compare to the experiences of your life, friends and family?

Encourage your student to take notes and listen closely. As they take notes, they will be able to tell if the text is full of facts or fictional detail.

Determining the difference between fiction and non-fiction works does not need to be tricky. By spending time at home discussing the differences and reading examples of each style, your elementary student will be able to master these skills.

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