The Growth of Children’s Non-Fiction
By Aisling O’Mahony
With International Children’s Book Day just passed on 2 April, it is interesting to see the growth children’s literature continues to experience. Though children’s literature has often focused on fiction, recent years have seen a rise in the quality and demand for children’s non-fiction. This rise can be seen in a recent study by the NPD, which reported a 66% increase in US sales of children’s non-fiction during 2020. Breaking this down, the sales of general activity books went up by 128%, sales of study aids increased by 235% and books about language, arts and handwriting increased by 265%. The UK underwent a similar growth last year, with a report by the BBC showing that the sales of children’s educational titles had increased by 234%.
COVID-19 has also influenced the sales of children’s non-fiction. As a result of the pandemic, the series of lockdowns has resulted in more free time that could be dedicated to reading. As parents began undertaking homeschooling, there was an increase in the sales of educational books to assist them. Parents also began purchasing more activity and instructional books to keep children entertained, while being confined to the house. As well as this, publishing houses began to publish books specifically about COVID-19, in order to explain the pandemic in a child-friendly way. Examples of such books include Why Did the Whole World Stop? by Heather Black, The Unwelcome Stranger by Drew Edwards & Taylor Tomu and Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca, which will be published later this month.
Non-fiction is a highly important genre of children’s literature and has considerable positive effects on the young reader. Specifically, children’s non-fiction teaches about the world, cultures and places that otherwise may not be accessible. The genre also makes children aware of world issues and prompts them to think about solutions, as well as how to make a difference. For instance, children have the opportunity to be taught about climate change and the impact Greta Thunberg has had, in Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter. Children’s non-fiction can therefore be used as a vessel to promote equality and acceptance, by teaching young readers about the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. An example of this can be seen in When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke. Non-fiction can inspire children through teachings on current or historical figures who have made a difference, such as in Becoming: Adapted for Younger Readers by Michelle Obama or Fantastically Great Women: Scientists and Their Stories by Kate Pankhurst.
The genre of non-fiction helps to expand children’s vocabulary, particularly educational texts that contain technical terms. Reading non-fiction assists children in school and later on in life, as it improves their ability to comprehend complex texts and evaluate information. It can also serve as a tool to teach kids about difficulties they may be experiencing themselves, such as bullying, depression, anxiety and so on.
For instance, children can learn about methods to manage anxiety in books like All About Anxiety by Carrie Lewis. For those who do not necessarily gravitate towards fiction, non-fiction titles allow young readers to simultaneously develop a love of reading and learn more about their interests.
There is a wide variety of quality children’s non-fiction titles coming out this year to watch out for. To name a few, Abigail Balfe writes about her experience growing up with autism in A Different Sort of Normal, due to be published on 22 July. Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States by Warren Binford comes out today (13 April) and is a powerful book about the experiences of immigrant children. The Really Incredible Science Book by Jules Pottle will be published on 3 June and is an interactive book for children aged 5-8 years old, to encourage an interest in science. We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell, due to come out on 20 April, is about Native American history, present and future. This is only a small selection of the fantastic children’s non-fiction books that will be published in 2021, so keep your eyes peeled for more.