Often children are read almost exclusively fiction texts. With the new Common Core Standards taking effect, this will be changing dramatically in schools. Therefore, as parents we need to get on board as well.
When my boys and I go to the library I try to make sure that there is a balance of fiction and informational texts so I chose about 10 of each. It can be tricky because some informational texts are written at such a level that they are not easily readable to young children. I suggest asking your librarian about which books are easy informational texts. Our library marks those with an “E” on the spine so that helps. My library also has a section of easy readers which contains both fiction and informational text so I often choose a few from there.
I try to choose books that coincide with the seasons, holidays, current events (like the olympics or elections, etc.) and whatever topic my boys are currently obsessed with (African animals, race cars, trains).
I teach them how to use the text features such as the table of contents, labels, captions, headings, text boxes, and the glossary. I teach them that even though they might not be able to read all the words, they can learn a lot of information from the text features. In my experience teaching, kids loved reading informational text for just this reason.
While we are reading I make sure to model my thinking aloud saying things such as, “Wow! I never knew that a spider could do that! That’s really surprising!” or “That’s a very interesting fact!” Then after we read, I ask them to tell me some facts they learned. This can be hard for kids sometimes because they often rely on their background knowledge instead of telling you what the text said. So we play a game called “Prove It!” I ask them a fact that they learned and then they have to go back to the text to show me where it said that. They love doing this and they are often surprisingly good at it! Plus, it helps them in the future because you are showing them that good readers go back to the text to verify information which is another focus of the Common Core. You could also introduce the index at this point as a reference if they are having difficulty finding the fact they needed.
Mostly, let the kids feed the discussion. Latch onto what they find interesting or surprising and go with that. Try to check out books that you know will interest them but also stretch them somewhat into other topics as well. Have fun and learn something new with them…I know more now about construction vehicles than I ever thought possible!