Using Quality Narrative Non Fiction Texts To Teach Writing

In the world of books for children, educators are showing a growing desire to acquire non fiction texts that are both informative and engaging. They are seeking out books that possess a strong voice and arouse curiosity in the mind of the young reader. I too, seek out such books. It remains an ongoing quest.

Experience tells me that most of the titles, I have acquired that meet this criteria have come from my work with fellow educators. Book shops rarely carry such texts. They generally push an over supply of fiction, ranging from good quality to highly questionable and a small sample of non fiction titles. The non fiction titles on offer tend to fit a more traditional style of presentation. Unfortunately, many of these titles tend to be, dare I say it, uninspiring. At other times the titles on offer present a broad focus on science and nature topics, possibly in the hope that some of the facts they throw at the reader will rub off.

These are not the books I’m looking for unfortunately. I’m actually looking for books presenting the best features of fiction and non-fiction combined into a single text. These are the texts that engage me, make me think, and create connections upon which to expand my working knowledge.

What teachers are looking for are titles that present the best features of both fiction and non-fiction texts. Such books are sometimes referred to as ‘narrative non-fiction.’ These creative texts offer unique learning potential for readers. Narrative non-fiction texts cleverly wrap the facts around a storyline. The craft of the fiction writer and the research of the non-fiction writer are creatively entwined. Both elements are equally important. It’s a creative partnership.

By employing engaging text, the author connects the young reader to the wonders of the real world. The aim is to engage their curiosity, which may eventually lead the child on a lifelong learning adventure.

I believe narrative non fiction titles are more likely to engage the attention of young readers. They certainly capture my attention as an educator and writer. Coming across such texts is akin to finding gold. As mentor texts, they are immensely important to my work around writing to inform.

A great place to begin your search for these amazing texts would be to seek out authors such as Seymour Simon, Martin Jenkins, Nicola Davies and Claire Saxby. These writers provide information with a dash of verve. 

As someone who spends a great deal of time in bookshops, the paucity of such engaging books is a source of immense frustration. However, my quest continues. Here are some of the texts I have managed to add to my library across the years. They fit easily into the category- narrative non-fiction and I love working with them, whether teaching aspects of reading comprehension or writing craft. 

This Nicola Davies text was recommended to me by a colleague and I am so grateful. A wonderfully crafted text. Informative and engaging.


Seymour Simon has been described by the NY Times as the dean of Science writers. His writing sparkles with authority and engagement for the reader. Do yourself and your students a favor and acquire some of his books.

I have several Martin Jenkins titles in my personal library. This one though is a particular favorite. It is persuasive, informative and provides a great explanation for the plight of tigers in today's world. It is written with a strong voice. A voice that seems to be appealing to the individual reader. 
Claire Saxby's book was spotted in the window of 'Book and Paper' in Williamstown, Victoria. It is an information delight. A narrative thread carries the beautifully crafted text. Claire's follow up book, 'Emu' continues with this same structure.
'Reptiles' is Claire LLewellyn's book. I found to my delight that the author has included vignettes that provide the reader with strong visual images of  the habitats of various creatures. It was this aspect of the book that grabbed my attention. 
I have always been an admirer of Cynthia Rylant's writing. I bought this book when working in the US. The stories of migration are beautifully crafted. They inform in a unique way. The stories paint such clear pictures of migratory patterns. 
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This beautifully crafted book is strong on fact and visual imagery. It celebrates the notion of 'place' and all the wonderful things that occur in this natural setting.
Image result for Thylacine Margaret Wild
Margaret Wild combines factual information, free verse and repetition to tell the story of the extinct, Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) 

Chris Butterworth's 'Sea Horse' is a fine example of narrative non fiction. It cleverly combines factual information with a narrative style explaining the life of these intriguing creatures.


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