There has never been a shortage of quality fiction books for the primary market, but when it comes to non-fiction titles it’s another story. It’s no wonder that turning young learners on to the value and pleasure of reading non-fiction is a major challenge.
Children’s non-fiction should provide clear, accurate and interesting information that supports a love of reading. Some books bring facts to life with fun text and light-hearted illustrations; others adopt a more academic approach. Finding the correct balance is tricky, but I think Oxford Reading Tree’s new inFact collection gets it right.
This very impressive series has been designed to intrigue, inform, involve, indulge and inspire. In fact, it does all of this and more. In terms of writing, page layout, design, photos, illustrations and general readability, these are high-quality books. They have been well researched, have a logical, user-friendly structure and are attractively designed. One question I always ask when selecting a non-fiction title is whether or not the book is visually appealing; a picture really can be worth 1000 words because it can impart information that would be difficult to convey in the text. The 36 inFact books benefit from magnificent designs that combining spectacular photography with striking illustrations. They will captivate a young audience. Added to this you have colourful backgrounds and typefaces that change in size and colour to emphasise important or interesting points – the overall effect is creative and emotionally engaging. The next question to ponder is whether the books are accurate and authoritative. Well, I’d say the reader’s background knowledge is really well considered, with new ideas connected to what children already know. The language is also age appropriate, difficult ideas are explained clearly and simply, and the books are expertly levelled and colour banded – as you’d expect with Oxford Reading Tree. The books are certainly well written; they have an air of authority and the content, glossary and index are all precise and straightforward with no dumbing down. The inside cover tells you a bit about the book, the text type, the topic under discussion, and there are talking points to be addressed whilst reading the text.
The inside back cover invites reflection by asking children to think back over what they’ve read, and the ‘find out more’ prompt encourages them to delve deeper into the subject. In some of the books there’s an inFact fun section that has ideas teachers can use to further extend thinking, while others offer all-important writing practice with a ‘Write about it!’ task.
The range of topics covered in this series will appeal to all, and children will discover new interests and lines of enquiry too. The books focus on themes such as animals, recycling, discoveries, space, food, the monarchy, famous people, dinosaurs, comic strips, bodily features and functions, art, history, and travel. Different text types are, therefore, well covered with a fascinating mix of personal accounts, lyrical writing and biographies.
For me, the inFact books are clear and coherent, carefully organised using logicallyordered ideas, and have plenty of visuals designed to wow. Each author communicates her passion for her subject and writes in tones that do not condescend to children. The books all leave the reader wanting to know more.
Quality non-fiction books have to work hard if they are to engage readers from front to back, and the inFact series does just that. High quality, visually attractive and digitally linked, they are intrinsic to literacy development, achievement and reading engagement. Well done, Oxford Reading Tree. This is a super set.