Fiction vs. Nonfiction Comprehension Strategies

There are reasons why it's necessary to differentiate between the genres. But I will focus on three main concepts teachers and parents must teach: text features, purpose for reading, how we process and share what we read.


Text Features

Nonfiction text is typically arranged differently than fiction. You'll find graphs, charts, main idea headings and subheadings, index, table of contents, maps, bullets, timelines and diagrams. All of which provide information related to the topic, but require a different approach to reading it. If your reader struggles to understand nonfiction, begin with how to read the different text features.


For example, columns are a feature that need to be taught (I learned this one the hard way). My new reader received a two column Bible from our church and when she began reading it she said that the sentences seemed all mixed up. She was reading line by line rather than finishing one column and beginning at the top of the next afterwards. DUH! I had to teach her how to read double column versus single column. She struggled with that concept at first. It took a lot of practice to train her brain. I highly recommend that for new readers you get them a single column, large print Bible. I learned my lesson the hard way there.


Each genre will have text features that you need to teach. Graphic Novels will be different than chapter books that are different than atlases, but all require attention. It is as simple as sitting down with your reader and reading those book with them, pointing out the different features and how you use them to help you understand it.


Purpose for Reading

I pick up an atlas for a different reason than I pick up The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. One is for the purpose of finding information, the other is for entertainment. If I pick up a Fox News article and compare it to a CNN news article I want to compare different opinions on the same event - persuade me. Usually we pick up nonfiction text for the sake of persuasion and information and fiction for the sake of entertainment. There are times, however, that I find a book like Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha for curiosity and entertainment. I walked away pleasantly surprised with all that I learned and enjoyed even though it read like a text book!


The same is true for your reader. Help them identify why their reading it. That plays a part in their motivation to continue reading and how they're going to read it.


How We Process and Share Information

No matter what we need to encourage our readers with this fact: reading is thinking. How we process the information in a text book is far different than a fictional story. We can use different note taking strategies for both, but I'd recommend many different ways to do this here are a few:

If you cannot find what you need here, contact me! I can help.

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