While non-fiction’s purpose is to impart well-researched information, non-fiction for children should retain the flavor of lively storytelling. It must be age appropriate with word and page restrictions identical to that of fiction. As with all stories, non-fiction’s structure consists of a beginning, middle, and an end.
Make the opener invoke curiosity, awe, and urgency. This can be done by using an anecdote, an amazing fact, a quote, or a quotation. A reason why the child should be interested in the topic must follow.
In the middle, present one fact at a time. Use short paragraphs and short sentences. Organize your information logically so the child understands sequentially. Break up narration with images, graphs, or timelines and compare difficult concepts to something easily visualized. Always use concrete language. Difficult words can be defined in the text.
The conclusion will be a summation and restatement of the beginning. A glossary, index, bibliography or a list of books for further reading can appear at the end.
The following describes several of the categories you can choose from if you decide to write non-fiction. Biographies are written for preschoolers as well as older children. Rather than only mentioning major events, anecdotal information is used and a large part of the story takes place in the subject’s childhood. How to and activity books use illustrations and materials lists along with step-by-step instructions. Behind the scenes books show how things work or are produced.
Holiday books may deal with origins, traditions, or folk tales. Games, crafts, and songs may be included. History books cover one era, event, or topic. Sports and adventure books are lively, action-packed, and present basic information while using pictures. Museum books are primarily visual. Filled with color pictures and artwork, their subjects are explained directly and concisely. Science books cover many subjects. In the lower grades, some of the topics that interest children the most are dinosaurs, fossils, insects, weather, simple machines, habitats, and anatomy. For older children, subjects that relate to school curriculum are considered.
So, you are ready to write a non-fiction book. How do you choose your topic? Study your audience. Discover the leisure pursuits of the children in your targeted age group. Be familiar with the magazines they read and the news they see. Find out what interests young adults, for their tastes may have filtered down to the younger kids by the time you are published. Then research, using source materials.—Quinn