Hello! With school being over, I hope that all of you are having a good rest and finding time to do the things that you love. For those of you who love learning about the world around you, this post is especially for you. This post is also for parents who bemoan the fact that your children do not take enough interest in current affairs.
Why do children need to read non-fiction?
1. Exposure to thematic vocabulary
Why is it good for children to read materials other than fiction, such as newspapers and magazines? Although children learn interesting vocabulary from reading novels and short stories, the vocabulary learnt from non-fiction texts are usually thematically-focused, exposing them to the words related to the same topic. For instance, a child reading an article about space will learn words like ‘galaxy’, ‘comet’ and ‘planet’. This makes non-fiction texts ideal for learning words that are thematically linked, unlike fiction where the vocabulary is less focused.
2. Preparation for school assessment – Cloze passage & Comprehension
Moreover, some children may have poor comprehension skills because they lack the background knowledge in the topic they are reading. For instance, a child who has prior knowledge about snakes may find a story about a snake bite easier to understand than one who has not been exposed to such knowledge. Schools do tend to use non-fiction texts for comprehension cloze passages so a child with some background knowledge on the topic will not be thrown off by the unfamiliar vocabulary. He or she might even be able to link the ideas better while navigating the passage.
3. To make informed decisions in daily life
Most importantly, comprehending non-fiction is an important life skill. Non-fiction texts are primary sources of information so children need to read them to find out what they need to know to lead their lives. Which breed of dog should a child pick as a pet? They will probably need to do some research on the dogs’ traits before making an informed decision. An aggressive guard dog may not be suitable for families with young children!
Where to find news sources?
Other than visiting local news websites such as The Straits Times and Today, are there other options for free news sources? The answer is yes! Below I have listed 5 free websites where you can read or watch news on current events, culture, science and technology. These articles and videos have been created by professionals in their fields and presented in a fun and simple way that appeals to children. Let’s check them out!
Tween Tribune is a free online educational service offered by the Smithsonian Institution, one of the largest museum, education and research complex in America. The site consists of news articles that include text, photos, graphics, and audio and/or video materials prepared by the Smithsonian and others about current events, history, art, culture and science. The stories are taken from reputable news organisations, such as the Associated Press, and local newspapers and TV stations. These articles are then tailored for different reading level audiences. See below for an example:
You can click on the different levels to determine which level is more appropriate based on the reading ability of your child. By choosing the higher lexile levels, you will see the text becoming more complex in sentence structures and vocabulary. We love how readers can choose a comfortable level according to their own reading abilities! There is now no excuse for your child to say that the passage is too difficult.
An award-winning online publication, Science News for Students is dedicated to providing age-appropriate, topical science news to students. The website publishes journalism on research covering a wide range of topics on science, health and technology. It posts both shorter news stories and longer features, all written with a vocabulary and sentence structure aimed at readers 9 to 14 years old. Each story includes further readings, citations to the original research on which the stories are based, a glossary list to explain the more difficult words used in the story and a readability score that ensures the text is accessible to teens and tweens.
Youngzine is an interactive website that provides articles and videos on a wide range of topics, including world news, science and technology, the arts, movies and books. Children can also submit their own stories, poetry and art pieces to the website if they are registered users. My favourite part of the website is the ‘experts’ link where children can learn more from real-life experts about what they do. See an example below:
Behind the News is a news programme broadcast on Australia’s ABC TV and aimed at children 8 to 13 years of age. It explores major news events with the goal of helping children understand current issues and events happening around them. The programme explains news items in a fun, simplistic way that is easy to understand. Each video is accompanied with a transcript so children can always read the transcript to help them to follow the news better.
For instance, this video teaches the children about UNICEF and children’s rights. They can click on the ‘full transcript’ button to read the transcript of the video or click on any of the links on the right to learn more about the topic. They can also click on the ‘archives’ button to read news as far back as 2005.
Similar to Behind the News, Newsround is a BBC children’s news programme aimed at 6 to 12 year-olds. Children learn about a range of topics, including current affairs, sports, entertainment and animals.
As seen from the example above, each news article has a video and a short passage related to the video. At the bottom of the page (not shown here), there are more links for the children to click on to other news related to the same topic.
I do hope you will check out these wonderful websites. As Sir Richard Steele (an Irish writer, playwright and politician) once wrote, ‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body’ so keep your mind active this holiday by exploring topics or issues that you are keen on found on these websites. Happy reading!