Better Together

Better Together

by Jill Philby

When kids ask for help finding books here at the library, it seems as if they fall into one of two camps.  They like either fiction or non-fiction, and there isn’t much overlap.  Once in a while someone will ask for non-fiction books about dragons or some other magical creature—which always makes me chuckle—but in general, it’s a definite one or the other. 

But the few kids who ask for both are on to something.

When you pair fiction with nonfiction, you learn better.

Reading fiction works on your emotional brain.  Fictional stories reach into your emotions.  They let you experience someone else’s life—their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings.  You become a better person as you develop empathy and understanding of what the characters are going through in their lives.  You can see characters’ thought processes and unconsciously learn about yourself and others. 

In “Leo the Late Bloomer” by Robert Krause, a young tiger named Leo isn’t yet able to keep up with the other tigers.  Father Tiger worries while Leo’s mother preaches patience.  Children can identify with Leo and be reassured that they, too, will bloom when they are ready.

Sure, Sam Lyttle lies in Joe Berger’s “The Pudding Problem,” but I understand that he wants to save his cat, Pudding, and he sees his lies as a means to an end.  My heart goes out to Sam because I like him and I want him to be successful, but I also know that he needs to find another, better way to solve his problem.  And I learn that I don’t want to be in Sam’s shoes! 

Nonfiction, on the other hand, provides you with factual information to help you understand society and your environment. Nonfiction also increases vocabulary and helps develop critical thinking skills. The really great thing about nonfiction, though, is that it can connect to your emotions, too, just like fiction.

Reading a Steve Jenkins animal book, such as “What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?” is a gateway for younger readers to explore other books about animals and their individual characteristics. Did you know that four-eyed fish can see above and below the water at the same time?  Or that a cricket’s ears are on its knees?

The “Who Was…?” Series of books (and its various spin-off series) published by Penguin Random House presents children, and their grown-ups, with great information about influential people throughout history.  Biographies really give kids a chance to see how other people around the world and throughout time grew up to accomplish the things they did.  They encourage kids to come see what it was like to be Galileo, Marie Curie, or Louis Armstrong.

And this is where the magic of BookFlix comes in! BookFlix is a children’s online resource offered by Ames Public Library that combines the wonder of fiction with depth added from a paired work of nonfiction. Search the listings and you will see that each fictional title offered has a nonfiction title included. Ed Young’s retelling of a Chinese version of Red Riding Hood, “Lon Po Po”, is paired with Elaine Pascoe’s nonfiction book “Wolves” while Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” is paired with “Car Safety” by Lisa M. Harrington.

To access BookFlix, go to Find the Books, Movies & More menu and click on Stream & Download.  Once you find BookFlix, enter your library card number and password then choose the titles you want to read or have read to you!  Each series of titles also includes a short quiz or two and an opportunity to find out more about the subject or author. 

You can try the same thing on your own, too!  Find a book for you or your child, then pair it with either a fiction or nonfiction title on the same topic.  You may find that you enjoy what you are reading even more because fiction and nonfiction are better when read together.