Six tips for using factual books in the classroom

Published on: 28 April 2024

Our Writer in Residence, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, suggests ways to share factual books with a class.


Make non-fiction books available at home, in the classroom or wherever books are kept in your school so that they are just as accessible for children as fiction is during free reading time. And let children see YOU dipping in and out of these books. I often hear teachers talk about modelling a love of reading and it works with factual books too. Besides, if children spot a stunningly illustrated non-fiction book on your desk or in your hands, you just know they’re going to ask about it.


Set some dedicated time aside to let children explore factual books. Former Deputy Head Rosemary Burke, for example, used to lead regular “Non-Fiction Fridays” where she had all kinds of non-fiction gems for children to choose from and leaf through with activity sheets for afterwards.

Choice is key. It’s empowering and it means that children can follow their interests and find a book that’s perfect for them. And there truly is a book out there on every topic you can imagine. If you can’t find something, it’s because a writer out there is still scribbling away and crossing their fingers that a publisher will take a chance on their idea. Fact.


Consider exploring a factual book at story time. It might be a beautiful narrative non-fiction book such as We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade. Or a poetic picture book such as Swim, Shark, Swim by Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou or Once Upon a Star by James Carter and Mar Hernández. 

Reading together is an incredible thing. BookTrust even have a whole campaign around this because of the difference it makes to children and their life chances - it’s called Reading Together (does what it says on the tin!) Don’t forget factual books when you think about reading together with children. They might start interesting conversations and unlock all kinds of shared “wow” moments.


Find factual books to link to key themes that you’re exploring at school or homeschool. If you’re looking at climate change, for example, you might consider Drawn To Change The World, an eye-opening graphic novel by Emma Reynolds and 16 artists from around the world. And it’s sneaky to slip this one in, I know, but if you’re exploring teamwork and movements for social change, you might look at How To Change The World by Annabel Tempest and me. 

In this age of disinformation, it’s important that children have access to resources they can trust. And factual books are put together after long stretches of deep research and fact-checking. They’re also written and illustrated in a way that is sensitive, accessible, and age-appropriate, taking big topics and breaking them down for young readers. Lean on these books. They might inspire all kinds of other work too.

Which brings us neatly to Tip 5…


Use factual books as a launchpad for creative work. That might be in the form of drawings and paintings, posters, poems, diary entries, newspaper articles, timelines, or profile pieces.

You might use something like Wonder: The Natural History Museum Poetry Book edited by Ana Sampson to inspire poetry around science, for instance. You might use a book like Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley’s A Day In The Life Of An Astronaut, Mars, And The Distant Stars to encourage children to make their own factual comics and zines. Or you might use something like How To Be Extraordinary by Annabel Tempest and me to get children researching, writing, and illustrating pieces about their role models and inspirations. Or use a book like Good News: Why The World is Not As Bad As You Think, illustrated by Adam Hayes, to inspire children to set up their own GOOD NEWS noticeboard in the classroom, sharing positive, uplifting stories with each other. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.


You could set up a Fascinating Facts board in the classroom or in a school corridor. Encourage children to share some interesting facts that they’ve discovered in books or news magazines. Imagine how exciting and interesting that board could be. Something belonging to everyone. Something to keep coming back to. One little spark lighting another. If you do set one of these boards up, by the way, we’d love to hear about it so do send us photos over on BookTrust’s social media channels!

I hope these tips are helpful. The sheer range of non-fiction books out there today is astonishing and I’m sure you’ll find so many to tie into themes you’re exploring at school (and at home). I’ve also shared a whole host of factual book recommendations under various themes here at BookTrust and I have another book list on its way in the summer too. I hope you love these books as much as I do.

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